A broken part of me has fantasized about repeating grade school in my childhood body with current adult knowledge, in order to mess with teachers who probably don’t deserve my brand of mischief. Thus, when my daughter announced she was reading Nancy Drew #18 Pit of Vipers, for a school project, I decided to read the book and do a good old-fashioned book report on it. If you want to avoid spoilers, or preserve your love of a beloved childhood character, you should probably stop reading now.
Nancy Drew has apparently been updated every 35 years or so. I’m reading the “modern version” from 2006. The only author listed is Carolyn Keene, who must be throwing conniption fits from beyond the grave because Nancy Drew was never such a horrible person in the books I read as a kid.
Nancy Drew: Horrible Driver
Nancy Drew is a menace behind the wheel. She drives while texting. Repeatedly. She drives on her spare tire. She parks in front of fire hydrants. She hits potholes with enough force to blow out tires. Does she have a second spare? Of course not. She nearly sideswipes parked cars. Of course she pretends to be environmentally conscious by driving a hybrid, as if that will make up for all the lives she will take in future years. We’ll ignore the fact that a hybrid vehicle is a poor choice if you are trying to save Mother Gaia.
I’m sending a copy of this book to Ms. Drew’s insurance company: they need to know the risk they are taking.
Nancy Drew: Horrible Friend
Nancy gambles with her best friends’ lives because they are always in the car with her. She also gambles on the legal system. When Charlie is accused of kidnapping a rare, poisonous snake from the zoo, does she advise him to get a lawyer? Of course not! Despite the fact that her own father is available, and could probably be bribed into a free consult. None of these imbeciles has seen the video Don’t Talk to Cops. If you haven’t, it is well worth the half hour it will cost you.
Nancy Drew: Horrible Detective
Surely, Ms. Drew is a competent detective, right? Err, no. The only reasoning Nancy presents to solve the crime is her “hunch.” The girl “detective” proclaims this to be a weighing of the information gathered which her subconscious processes before anything like thought or logic becomes involved. Her friends are the only competent sleuths: they have enough ability to charm or distract people so Nancy can make some feeble inquiries. Bess and George are the ones who look up the necessary information on the internet.
So what is Nancy good at? Putting herself in perilous situations involving exotic reptiles. The girl cannot even fathom that being left alone in a room to be attacked by a rattlesnake or a venomous lizard is more like attempted murder than “harmless prank.”
Nancy Drew: Horrible Motivator
All of the male characters are cardboard. George’s little brother repeatedly skips swim practices because he is afraid of losing the big swim meet, despite being the best swimmer on the team. Does Nancy offer any advice on trying your best, learning to handle loss, or not worrying about the final score so long as you are doing what you love? No. Her pithy advice: “just swim faster than the other team!” Worthless.
Nancy Drew: Horrible New Series
This travesty of a formerly-appealing character is solely the responsibility of whoever it was who updated the book for the 2006 edition. It is no surprise zhe1 does not seek credit. Unfortunately, if you’re going to have an incompetent boob of an amateur crime solver, you need a completely bogus crime for her to solve.
In this case, it requires a bad guy who thinks like a girl. Lionel Hart’s motivation is that he wants to get his rival, Charlie, fired so that Lionel can get a promotion at the garage where they both work. The author established that Lionel loves cars and loves working on them. So… does he do what any real guy would do and simply work harder to outperform his rival? He does not. Instead, Lionel enlists the aid of his sister who works in the reptile section at the local zoo, launching an elaborate plot that involves not one, but two attempts at murdering other teenagers with poisonous animals.
The story would have been slightly more plausible if his sister had approached him (her motivation to help was revenge for the humiliation Charlie inadvertently dealt her in high school) and he agreed because he is stupid, and the frame-up would have helped him. But girls can’t look bad in modern literature and Nancy Drew is no exception. So the guys must not only be stupid and incompetent, but not act like guys.
In short, I cannot recommend Nancy Drew #18 Pit of Vipers because it is simply too annoying to read. If you are ever in a fictional role-playing game and can hire either Nancy Drew or zombified Agatha Christie to prove your innocence, pick Agatha, rotted brain and all. Unless you are *really* due for a critical success roll…
1. Editrix’s note: Codex is not responsible for this travesty of pronoun use.