Confessions of a Teen Sleuth

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005
A Parody by Chelsea Cain #23

I bought this book (and had it autographed) at Wordstock in April, and finally got to it on the TBR pile. I should probably give a little background on my childhood reading habits - that I was a HUGE Girl Detective fan when I was a kid. Not Nancy Drew, as much, but Trixie Belden (my personal favorite), Cherry Ames (Student Nurse, Dude Ranch Nurse, Jungle Nurse, Department Store Nurse, etc.), Judy Bolton, and so on. They were re-issuing the Trixie Belden books at the time and I would get them for birthdays or Christmas from my parents, or if I saved my money. They couldn't release them fast enough for me. I was completely unaware that Trixie was written by at least 5 different people, I just couldn't wait to see where she would be traveling with her best (rich) friend Honey Wheeler next. Would it be a dude ranch? A castle in England? The coast somewhere? Maybe they would find a pirate ship, solve the mystery of the bongos, or Sasquatch, etc. etc. The other Girl Detectives I checked out (10 at a time, the limit for kids) from the Punta Gorda library. So if I'm not the ideal consumer for this book (since I wasn't into Nancy Drew specifically) I am the next best thing: a former teen sleuth series reader with enough distance from my beloved to tolerate a parody, and enough disposable income to buy a copy.

This book was obviously written with a great deal of affection for the subjects, so that made me feel less guilty about laughing as the premiere Girl Detective's foibles are laid bare. It takes the premise that Carolyn Keene (the name given to the syndicate of writers responsible for the ND books), was actually a college roommate of Nancy's who was spreading lies and distortions of Nancy's adventures with her "chums" because she was jealous. Nancy's first person voice is spot on - it reads just like one of those books ( and I think I may have discovered where I acquired my love of exclamation points!), except it gives voice to a lot of the subtext. Ned is a drag, Nancy is completely self-absorbed a little too invested in solving mysteries, and...that's all I'll say for now. I don't want to give too much away. This book ages Nancy as she solves crimes throughout her life. There are familiar faces for fans of series mysteries - Cherry Ames (who serves some time here as an Internment Camp Nurse), Frank and Joe Hardy, Foxy Belden-Frayne (daughter of Trixie Belden and Jim Frayne), Kim Aldrich, and more. hee hee.

Here's the beginning of a reunion scene that gives a little taste of this book - from Chapter VIII - The Mystery of The Seven Sisters, 1975

"Actually," I announced to the auditorium, "I think that books about girl sleuths should be an integral component of the feminist canon."

There was a smattering of applause in the audience and nodding from my panel mates. It was the first annual Female Protagonists in Young Adult Series Literature Feminist Conference at Vassar College, and George Fayne, now a distinguished, tenured professor and author of the book
Clitoris! Clitoris! Clitoris! had invited me to participate. Others on the panel included Cherry Ames, who had recently been hired as a Teamsters nurse; Kim Aldrich, who was fighting the glass ceiling as a secretary for the international insurance firm WALCO, Inc.; and Judy Bolton, the attractive wife of an FBI agent, who had her own series of books, though they did not sell as well as mine."

This book also has great original-series style illustrations throughout, so you can see Nancy as she ages. I suspect Confessions of a Teen Sleuth will be the biggest hit with women who devoured these books as girls, but I definitely think that someone who has an interest in the phenomenon of series mysteries , or who enjoys a lovingly barbed parody would enjoy it as well.
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