Well, the good news is that I can finally say I’ve read a Nancy Drew on Campus book. Unfortunately, that’s also the bad news. The series is everything I expected it to be.
The Zeta fraternity is holding a casino-themed charity weekend, and all the Kappa girls are excited to help out their men. Nancy’s boyfriend Jake will be taking a turn as dealer, and Bess’s latest love interest Paul is in charge of all the games. The Zetas have had a party reputation in the past and are anxious that their attempt to do more will be a success, especially since they are getting backing from the wealthy Porter family. The trouble starts when a player wins big at the blackjack table with a hot streak that lasts most of the night. Someone gets an even bigger haul, however, when that night’s proceeds are stolen. To make matters even worse, Paul was responsible for the money and is now the main suspect. Bess, Nancy, and Jake must try to clear his name, but an incriminating witness makes their job difficult. Meanwhile, some of the girls’ suitemates are having troubles of their own. Casey should be thrilled that her movie-star boyfriend Charlie insisted on coming from LA to visit this weekend, but the truth is that the timing couldn’t be worse. She’s already scheduled to sing both nights at the charity event, and has papers and exams to prepare for that will make or break her grades. Her roommate Stephanie is also in a black mood about her father’s new trophy wife, and is ready to take out her frustration on anyone. Black and White Nights is turning out a lot differently from how everyone had planned.
Well, the good thing is that there’s lots of descriptions of clothes. We like that in Nancy Drew books, right? The dresses on the cover are so spot-on that the photo shoot was probably done before the text. Unfortunately, the focus is mostly on how everyone looks in the clothes. Here’s a sample of the girls getting ready:
“Tonight’s not black tie, you know,” Nancy reminded them.
Bess frowned. “Yeah, but how often do we get the chance to dress up in gorgeous clothes?”
“Sexy clothes is more like it,” Eileen commented it.
Nancy sighed. “I guess I’ll just have to wear my black Lycra micro-mini.”
“Perfect!” Bess cried.
Reva poked her head in the room. “Males have breached the walls!” She warned with mock alarm.
“Whose?” Bess asked.
“Yours,” she replied.
Bess quickly put on her lipstick. “Is he wearing his sexy cummerbund? If he’s not wearing his cummerbund, tell him I’m not coming out.”
Um, yeah. For every one page of mystery we get five pages of mush like this. If I’m reading romance or chick lit I at least want it to be good; this feels like what I wrote with friends back in middle school. I’m not necessarily saying all Nancy Drew books should win literature prizes, but the others all have decent plots and consistent characters whom I care about. George was not mentioned once, though I know from other sources that she is included in the series. The mystery felt like an afterthought to Nancy, and I got the feeling that if Bess wasn’t egging her on to clear Paul’s name she would rather have just spent the time with Jake. We also see a lot of all the roommates. It seems that each volume will focus on the problems of one or two of them. After a while they seem to take over the story lines, until you forget that the series is actually about Nancy. Right now the only thing that marks her as the heroine is that she doesn’t have problems.
I’ve read multiple volumes of every Nancy Drew incarnation, from original texts to Clue Crew. “My” Nancy is a mostly revised text with OT and Files mixed in, which were the books I read as a child and teen. I used to scorn the paperbacks my friend checked out at the school library because they weren’t “really” Nancy Drew, but over time I’ve become able to compartmentalize the different series. I can read an Applewood and a Notebook, a Supermystery and a graphic novel, and be okay with the differences in how the character is protrayed, because the overall framework and intent are still the same. (I’m guessing this ability is connected to my high school love affair with fan fiction). The On Campus series, however, misses the mark on both counts. I may still collect them if I can find them cheap because I am a completist, but I really doubt I’ll read any more.