There is news in the series book world that Simon and Schuster is finally dropping the Nancy Drew, Girl Detective series. After a short break, she will return in a new series called the Nancy Drew Diaries. I responded in the comments section of that post, but I wanted to record my thoughts here as well.
I’m glad to see something is finally being done about the Girl Detective series! I, too, was excited about them at first, but agree that there were too many changes and the books have drastically gone downhill. I’ve been following the new releases but have only read the first 25. I wonder if this is tied to the revamp of the graphic novels. There seem to still be titles planned in the Clue Crew series, so I’m guessing that will continue even though it is in the same universe as Girl Detective. I hoping that the Hardy Boys will get a similar makeover as well, though, since the Undercover Brother series is even more maligned than Girl Detective.
If I had the ear of someone at Simon and Schuster, here’s what I would say.
The Good about Girl Detective:
~fleshed-out secondary characters: Bess, George, and Ned have more interests and family background
~a well-built world : I really liked seeing minor characters and places show up more than once, like the mayor, the Rackham family, the coffee shop, and Charlie Adams. They gave a sense of consistency to the books. And Dierdre in moderation actually works for me. I don’t want another Lettie, but she provides humor and conflict, almost like the Tophams. Unfortunately, this seemed to largely disappear in the later books.
~Nancy and Ned’s relationship: for me, this series had surprisingly the best balance of them all. Their relationship had more sentiment that the classics without the angst of the Files.
The Bad (most of which has been mentioned already in other responses):
~drastic and unnecessary character changes: after six years I still cannot believe Bess as a mechanic. Make her fluent in three languages or an antiques expert, but not something that requires getting dirty. Chief McGinnis may not like Nancy’s assistance, but he shouldn’t come across as incompetent.
~scatterbrained detecting: the Nancy we admire doesn’t need to be perfect, but she should be confident, capable, and composed. She should not completely lack fashion sense, and she should be aware enough to make sure her cell phone and car will be ready when she needs them. As written, I don’t blame the Chief for not trusting her.
~repetitive and irrelevant plots: after over 400 Nancy Drew books, I understand that coming up with fresh ideas is probably tough. However, in the same series we’ve had multiple Hollywood/movie plots, fashion plots, bike races, etc. In addition, some of the recent more ostensibly “girly” plots seem like they are chasing a subset of all the girls who love Nancy Drew. I was appalled that the latest features a take-off of “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” because that is not my idea of something appropriate for the target ages. Why would Nancy ever want to hang out with them?
~short books/too frequent/trilogy format: all this contributes to poor writing and thin plots. I know that anyone Nancy suspects in the first two thirds of the book will not be culprit. At this point I almost have more respect for the plots in the Clue Crew books.
~Please go back to longer books with better writing and more intricate plots (aka if you think it would make a trilogy, condense it into a 250 page book). Nancy doesn’t have to have every case mysteriously match up with Carson’s, but the investigations could benefit from being less linear, similar to the computer games. Space out the publishing. This might not make sense for short-term profits but will make the series more sustainable. The books will have a higher quality, and readers might actually anticipate the new releases with excitement. I don’t think anyone was ever counting down to when the next GD was released, even with the trilogy format. In addition, with fewer but more distinct title, new readers might be more likely to buy previous volumes in the series.
~a mix of gothic and original plots: Jennifer is absolutely correct that Her Interactive hits the nail on the head with this. In addition, they manage to have historical and educational aspects. Not every mystery needs a haunted house, but the plots could involve past crimes coming to light, or missing heirlooms. Troubled Waters actually stood out to me as a great plot in the Girl Detective series because it included multiple storylines, an original situation (Habitat for Humanity), a tie-in to an old crime, and a creative use of modern technology (using a cell phone to record the crook’s confession). Several of the early books (3-15 or so) also had good plots.
~Nancy does not need to be perfect, but she should be intelligent and capable. Nancy can certainly make miscalculations, or ask a suspect a question that makes him or her clam up, without losing her ability to be a role model. None of the protagonists on all the mystery/law shows on TV make hare-brained mistakes. When they get called Nancy Drew, let’s keep it a compliment.
~Keep a well-rounded supporting cast, where the characters have larger defined roles but are not arbitrarily different from the originals. Continue to keep the vibrant River Heights that has been set up, with its industrial history and friendly residents.
~Above all, Simon and Schuster needs to take this seriously, and keep an active interest in the quality of the series. The more reincarnations of Nancy we are given, the less likely they are to take hold with the target audience. If the Nancy Drew Diaries are not a success I will be sincerely worried.