Last night, I finished an absolutely wonderful book: Melanie Rehak's Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her.
I had picked it up when I was taking an independent study last year in Women's Lit. Of course, I was broke then and working feverishly to put out nearly 50 pages in research papers so I wasn't able to pick it up. But, now it's in paperback, and it's marvelous.
It's really a biography of the two women behind Nancy Drew, and it juxtaposes Nancy with her writers and the backstory of how it all got started. Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, daughter of the man who created the idea of Nancy because girls were less interested in "niceties and more about being brave and adventurous", picks up the business after her father's death and becomes instrumental in Nancy's success. Mildred Wirt, an intrepid young woman from Iowa, begins the stories and becomes Carolyn Keene, and the series became the most endearing and well-beloved in juvenile fiction. Rehak discusses the reasons behind this as well as the women themselves, who were much like independent Nancy Drew.
Rehak opens her book with the line, "Grab your magnifying glass, because this is a mystery story." I personally was transported back to the days when my mother would beg me not to read in the dark, as I could not put the book down. Rehak does a wonderful job in marrying history, non fiction, and bits and pieces from the actual novels to create a book that is extremely readable and enjoyable.
What's best - it points out what we as girls dreamt of: being independent, brave, and intriguing. As one critic put it, once the television version of Nancy tanked for slightly altering the characters: "You don't make a female character strong by playing her opposite a buffoon. You just make her strong..."
I think that may just be the best clue of all...