Who doesn’t enjoy reading childhood classics? I’ve loved re-reading through the Anne of Green Gables series, Little Women, and the Chronicles of Narnia. Occasionally I’ll bust out a Laura Ingalls Wilder classic or a copy of “The Secret Garden.” But now, it was time to mount a re-read of an entirely different scale: I decided to read through the entirety of my childhood Nancy Drew collection in one year.

And it almost killed me.

Okay. I exaggerate slightly. But seriously, this was a ridiculous goal to set!

Nancy Drew Book Challenge

You’re probably familiar with these yellow, hardcover books. Revised from the original series in the 1950’s, these books are quick and easy reads, featuring kid appropriate mysteries and “adventure.” With 56 books in the series, I was confident that I could breeze through this collection in record time. After all, one kids book a week is no problem for an avid book-lover like myself. Right?


It’s. A. Challenge!!!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Nancy Drew. But to save you from making a goal like this for yourself, I’ll let you cheat a little and see what I learned while re-reading the entirety of this series:

1. Nancy Drew books are great!!! And there’s a lot of them…
As a child these books were my go-to favourites for long car rides and lazy Saturday afternoons. I happily re-read my way through the series numerous times because there were so many incredible stories! Even now, as an adult, I love picking up one or two of them throughout the year. They’re fun, bring back such wonderful memories, and I can’t wait to share them with my daughter!

But reading them all in a year? It’s a lot. By the time I made it halfway through the series, I was relying heavily on nostalgia to help pull me through. Reading a book a week doesn’t seem that difficult until you realize that you’re essentially reading THE SAME BOOK every week for a year.

2. Nancy Drew is secretly a 100-year-old woman disguised in the body of a ridiculously fit eighteen-year-old. There’s no other way to explain how Nancy is so incredibly proficient at so many extreme (and random) skills! Not only can she ski, dance, act, climb, skate, golf, swim, dive, use carrier pigeons, sail, scuba dive, fly planes, trick horseback ride, speak French, draw, and play the piano — she can do it all with EXCELLENCE! Seriously. Where did she find time to graduate high-school and learn all these things? And why has the CIA not scooped her up for training already?

3. Bess is the most relatable character.
Bess is one of Nancy’s best friends and a core character throughout the series. In first few pages of every book, Bess is described as “pretty and plump.” And unlike her cousin George or her “titan-haired” best friend, Bess is somewhat hesitant to get too involved in the mysteries. I mean, absurd, right?!? An eighteen-year-old girl who DOESN’T want to climb a fence into a yard patrolled by hungry leopards? A girl who would RATHER eat chocolate cake than catch a gang of creepy thirty-year old men who are constantly trying to lock teenagers in deserted cabins and leave them to DIE?

Yeah… as much as I’d love to be Nancy, my adult self is definitely 98% Bess.

4. Plotlines rely way too heavily on coincidence.
As a kid, I never noticed how “coincidental” everything is. As an adult reader though, it had me giggling! Nancy is constantly and “luckily” stumbling into vital clues. Oh, I’m looking for a missing stained glass window? I’ll choose a random place in the world where one of my cousins lives and… what’s this? The window “just happens” to be there too?!? What luck!

5. How does Nancy not age in 56 books?
Nancy is forever eighteen. I had a hard enough time reading these books in a year – how is it plausible that Nancy managed to solve this many mysteries in that exact same time span?!? And why has she decided to remain an “amateur” detective and not get paid for her work? She doesn’t go to school, she doesn’t work, and yet, her dad is cool with letting his eighteen-year-old spend thousands of dollars to run around the world and solve mysteries for free!?!

6. Where are all the houses with secret passages?
After searching the entirety of my entire 800 sq-ft apartment, I feel seriously disappointed to learn that none of my bookshelves are covering up secret tunnels filled with treasure. Maybe I’m just buying the wrong bookshelves??? IKEA, GET ON THIS!

7. Nancy Drew is an excellent role model.
The Nancy Drew books are a hit with young girls for a reason: Nancy is bold, adventurous, and brave. She’s loyal, stands up for what she believes in, and isn’t afraid to go after what she wants. For the time period these books were originally written in, Nancy broke the mould and allowed girls to dream big, non-traditional dreams.

I, for one, would certainly attribute part of my passion for reading and writing  to these early childhood books. Now, obviously, there are certain aspects to these books that don’t hold up as well as they could (and drove me absolutely NUTS as an adult reader) but would I still allow my pre-teen daughters to read them?

A resounding yes.

But for sanity’s sake, maybe just not all of them in the same year…


“I thought your name sounded familiar when you introduced yourself. You’re the American girl detective!” (Nancy Drew #41, The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes)

7 Things I Learned Re-Reading My Childhood Nancy Drew Series & Why this was a stupid goal!

16 replies
  1. Carin
    Carin says:

    Oh my gosh! I love this! I ended up on your book board on Pinterest today and this post called my name. I was such a big Nancy Drew fan and read them all. I tried getting my daughter into them a few years ago and she was all “meh”. She was more of a Famous Five- all things Enid Blyton kind of girl.

    Btw, Nancy Drew is called “Kitty” in Sweden. I couldn’t understand why nobody had heard of the Kitty books when I first moved over her lol

  2. Megan
    Megan says:

    Your point about Bess is so true! As a kid, I thought, “C’mon, Bess! Don’t be such a wimp!” But now I can totally relate to her. I’ve reread several of the books recently, and I got slightly irritated by how often Bess is described as “plump.” And it’s usually accompanied by something like: “Bess Marvin, Nancy’s pretty but plump friend, reached for another piece of cake.”

  3. Lynn carollo
    Lynn carollo says:

    I love this and as 56 year old mom, and now Nonna Nancy Drew was my “go to” read as kid. I bought them new and used from garage sales with my allowance. I think I had most, but probably not all 56. I may have aged out of them. I did laugh out loud at your descriptions which at the time did seem perfectly normal. But now looking back, you are most correct a bit far fetched. I don’t have my books because my mom gave them to our neighbor’s granddaughter. Ugh!! Still haven’t gotten quite over that. She didn’t think I wanted them Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Very well done!

  4. Susan Gill Orange
    Susan Gill Orange says:

    I am collecting the older published versions of the Nancy Drew books. The ones I buy have the blue covers and are mainly published in the 40s and 50s. These were the books of my own childhood . The books I took out of the school library and the ones I traded with my girlfriend Maureen so that we could get through so many of them in the summer. My reading material is usually some scholarly non fiction on Church history or The Culper Spy Ring but It I need to read Nancy Drew on occasion to refresh my tired mind. There are a number of reasons why you should read Nancy Drew: Here are 7 of them
    1 . Nancy is a good role model for women. She is an obedient daughter, a kind friend, a modest and moral girl friend . She is also smart and interesting.
    2. Nancy Drew mysteries prepare you to look down alley ways to unearth secrets. They tell you to not just accept the ennui, go unearth something fascinating in life
    3. Nancy Drew gives good examples of what friendship means
    4. Nancy Drew shows respect to everyone, even old codger drifters
    5. Nancy Drew understands commitment . If she says she is going to be there, she will
    6, Nancy Drew allows us to be our young selves again. IT says to each of us 60 something women that morals, and modesty, intelligence and drive do not fade once you are no longer 18
    7 . Nancy Drew is like a well we need to tap into once again. For many of us, she was our first fictional role model. We looked up to her but she did not look down on us. Nancy was taking us a long for the ride in her little roadster. And the invitation is still open.

  5. Angela Ramirez
    Angela Ramirez says:

    I loved this article and reading your reasons made me smile. I read the original series in elementary and read a good portion of the casefile series in my junior high and high school years. I love that you revisit the books of your youth as I do the same. Though, I generally don’t try to read all of them in the same series consecutively, because of how similar they can be. I love the example Nancy sets for girls and her character is timeless. Although yes, she does seem be overly accomplished for an 18 year old, especially when you consider the first publication in the 1930s had her age 16. Her age was changed in later versions. Thank you for this article!

    • Liz Mannegren
      Liz Mannegren says:

      Glad it brought a smile! I love the Nancy Drew series and look forward to reading them with my kids one day. (Although I’ll never attempt them consecutively in a year again, haha.) She is such a lovely, timeless and inspiring character!

  6. Karen
    Karen says:

    I’m doing this right now! I’ve got 18 books left and I started in April. I don’t know why I started but it’s fun and nostalgic!😄 you’re right on the nose with your observations. I was also surprised how open Nancy and Ned‘s relationship is.


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