Shelf Life: Rachael Mason
When I saw the new "Nancy Drew" movie, which hit theaters on Friday, it reminded me of exactly why she was never my favorite girl detective.
Of course, I read the books while I was growing up - I read everything I could get my hands on as a child. But I never felt a real connection with Nancy Drew, even as I made my way through volume after volume of her adventures.
I can only remember a few things about the books, like the distinctive yellow binding of the hardcover editions and how uncomfortable Nancy looked in the cover illustrations, whether she was sitting at an awkward angle or climbing stairs in the dark. I've forgotten the stories almost entirely, but I do recall that she always took everything very seriously and rarely seemed to have fun. And I always thought her boyfriend Ned seemed like a dud.
Though the movie is set in the present, Nancy was still just as straight-laced as ever and her boyfriend was as dull as dishwater. I didn't hate the movie, though, because it was visually appealing and Nancy's wardrobe was incredible. There were also a few funny moments, like a cameo by Bruce Willis and a scene where Nancy runs from a bomb just like an action hero.
But still, there's no way any portrayal of Nancy Drew is going to bump her to the top of my girl detective list. That spot will always belong to Trixie Belden, a lesser-known sleuth who starred in her own series of books.
My mom, who read Trixie Belden stories when she was growing up, introduced me to the series. I remember her buying me a sackful of the books at a yard sale. I read them repeatedly when I was young.
I just really liked Trixie and her best friend Honey, who lived next door in a mansion. And Honey's brother Jim, who likes Trixie but never really becomes her boyfriend, was not only interesting and attractive, but also a really nice guy.
Trixie is almost the complete opposite of Nancy. She's warm and friendly, unlike Nancy, who is oddly formal. Trixie lives on a farm with her parents and annoying brothers, while Nancy is an only child who lives in town with her father and a housekeeper. Trixie can't seem to stay clean, while Nancy's clothes are always perfectly pressed. And Nancy solves her cases very deliberately, while Trixie and her friends get accidentally involved in mysterious circumstances again and again.
Altogether, there 39 Trixie books. The first 15 Trixie Belden books were published between 1948 and 1965, and the next 24 came out between 1970 and 1986. The first title, "The Secret of the Mansion" by Julie Campbell (Random House, $6.99), was reissued in 2003. Since then, new editions of the next 14 books have been released.
I recently picked up two Trixie Belden titles, the same 1970s paperbacks that I once read, at a used book sale. As an adult, I may not find them as appealing as I once did, but I'd still much rather read about her than Nancy Drew. And I bet a movie about Trixie Belden would be a lot better, too.
If you'd like to recommend a book or writer, e-mail Rachael Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org.