The Secret Life of Nancy Drew, Part II: Book Review by CJ Verburg

The confessions of a teenage sleuthConfessions of a Teen Sleuth by Chelsea Cain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Readers of Carolyn Keene’s version of my life’s events may be surprised to learn that Ned Nickerson was not the love of my life.” That opening sentence epitomizes this book: Not only is fictional titian-haired teenage sleuth Nancy Drew a real person, but so are her equally fictional biographer and boyfriend. This parody of the youth-sleuth series churned out by a syndicate under the pen name Carolyn Keene mimics not only the novels’ comic-book plots but their somewhat plodding style. And, as a parody should, this one digs up our memories and then flips them upside down. Housekeeper Hannah Gruen is younger than we thought. Ned is needier. Nancy — who ages chapter by chapter, marries, has a child, but never gives up sleuthing — is a bit pompous, really.

I had the same reaction as several other reviewers: this book was such an inspired idea, I hoped it would be funnier. It’s even more lightweight than the original series, although author Chelsea Cain stirs things up by tossing Nancy into some political ferment in each era: “The Clue in the Nazi Nutcracker, 1942.” “The Mystery of the Congolese Puppet, 1959.” “The Haight-Ashbury Mystery, 1967.” Other highlights include cameo appearances by the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy’s feud with Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, her ambivalence about Ned, and her comical blindness to what any of us could guess about her chums Bess and (especially) George.

If you were a Nancy Drew fan growing up, you’ll get a kick out of this book.

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