For all the years I read Nancy Drew, and well beyond, I thought she, Nancy Drew herself, was the author. This was before I noticed anything like third person narration and ‘Carolyn’ and ‘Keene’ were just words on the cover. At one point my greatest ambition was to become a blonde detective who wrote novels.
Then I grew up and at some dinner party or wherever such things are revealed I was horrified to learn that ‘Carolyn’ and ‘Keene’ was the author.
Then I grew up some more (this time only very recently, in the last month or so) and learned that even Carolyn Keene was a sham, that the Nancy Drew books were written by a posse of writers employed by a syndicate—all under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene—each of them receiving $125 per book.
Not a small shock to the system, this.
I’ve kept a handful of the series, I’m not sure why, and flipping through them I wonder—because I don’t read much YA—how much and in what way books for kids have changed. For instance, Nancy Drew is eighteen in the first book, ancient really, considering we were reading this in grade four or five. And her friend, Helen Corning, is three years older… twenty-one. Does this still happen? Are books with eighteen year old protagonists who have friends that are the legal drinking age written for nine and ten year olds? I’m not saying they shouldn’t be… although it does seem a little odd, but just wondering how and what and why things have changed.
What do ten year old girls read today?
Who are their literary heros?
Nancy Drew began peeling off her garden gloves as she ran up the porch steps and into the hall to answer the ringing telephone. She picked it up and said, “Hello!”
“Hi, Nancy! This is Helen.” Although Helen Corning was nearly three years older than Nancy, the two girls were close friends.
“Are you tied up on a case?” Helen asked.
“No. What’s up? A mystery?”
“Yes—a haunted house.”
Nancy sat down on the chair by the telephone. “Tell me more!” the eighteen-year-old detective begged excitedly.
“You’ve heard me speak of my Aunt Rosemary,” Helen began. “Since becoming a widow, she has lived wither her mother at Twin Elms, the old family mansion out in Cliffwood. Well, I went to see them yesterday. They said that many strange, mysterious things have been happening there recently. I told them how good you are at solving mysteries, and they’d like you to come out to Twin Elms and help them.” Helen paused, out of breath.
“It certainly sounds intriguing,” Nancy replied, her eyes dancing.
“If you’re not busy, Aunt Rosemary and I would like to come over in about an hour and talk to you about the ghost.”
“I can’t wait.”
After Nancy had put down the phone, she sat lost in thought for several minutes. Since solving The Secret of the Old Clock, she had longed for another case. Here was her chance!
~from The Hidden Staircase, Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, by Carolyn Keene