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Book description

In The Twin Dilemma, Nancy Drew has stepped forward into the 1980s - but gone decades backward in terms of her feminist cred. Whoever stepped in to ghostwrite this novel either had no clue that Nancy Drew is a feminist superhero in her own right or had been instructed by the editors to refashion our beloved Nancy as a more girlish (re: lame) protagonist for the pastel pantsuit-loving 80s. I began to feel a little ill as I read this novel, seeing my favorite heroine stripped of many of her skills and relegated to much less exciting plotlines.First of all, everyone in The Twin Dilemma keeps commenting that Nancy doesnt look anything like a detective. Not only to they express surprise, but then they belittle her capabilities, making a snap judgment about her based on her appearance. Forgive me for saying this, but I think you ought to leave that sort of investigation up to someone with experience, says one man. You never know how tough things might get, and I wouldnt want anything to happen to you. The comments of this condescending asshat are a huge contrast to the reactions of characters in the older Nancy Drew books. In the novels written in the 1930s-1960s, everyone from people on the street to local law enforcement and police chiefs take it in stride that Nancy is a detective and are immediately glad to have her assistance or to work with her.Then there is the fact that Nancy and her friends Bess and George are suddenly a lot less skilled and capable then in previous novels. Nancy, Bess and George have been riding horses, flying planes, assisting at archaeological digs, driving motor boats and operating sail boats for decades. Nancy knows several languages and has talent for painting and drawing. Although she isnt depicted as ever having officially taken a paying job, she has gone undercover plenty of times and she has also done plenty of work to assist her father, who is a lawyer. But in The Twin Dilemma, Nancys talents seem to be relegated to a talent for modeling, which several people urge her to take up instead of detecting. The hardest part of the novel to swallow was this exchange between Nancy, Bess and George:I can either try to get a job with the Millington Company or with Chalmers, said Nancy.Are you kidding? George said. Youve never worked for anybody i your whole life - other than your father, of course.I know, Nancy said, but theres always a first time. Besides, how else am I going to get any inside information?The cousins had to admit Nancy was making good sense.Can you type? Bess asked.Some.Take shorthand? George inquired.Nancy shook her head. But I can scrub floors if I have to. She giggled.[...] Well, I cant work on an empty stomach, Bess remarked.Thats assuming we get jobs, George said. What if we dont?And what if no one will interview us? Bess added.Given that Nancy can not only handle both a motorboat and a roadster when criminals are trying to run her down, but can also sketch accurate portraits and perform other artistic and mental feats, shes clearly skilled and capable enough to handle office work as well. (In fact, it is a running joke amongst many fans that Nancy is portrayed as being skilled at too many things to be realistic.) While all three girls may not have prioritized learning secretarial skills like typing and taking shorthand, I would find it unlikely that Nancy herself wouldnt have at least some experience with typing. In fact, I seem to recall another novel (too bad that I dont remember which one) in which Nancy stepped in to help her fathers secretary with typing a note. (Someone please correct me if Im wrong here!) Not only are Nancy, Bess and Georges stated lack of skills somewhat difficult to believe, but the very tone of their conversation in this scene is hard to swallow. Nancy is the only one who exhibits any kind of confidence that the girls will be able to obtain jobs, and even her own self-confidence is downplayed with the fact that she giggles and says she can scrub floors in order to get an undercover position at one of these companies. All three of them are being portrayed as silly girls with a wavering sense of self-confidence, which is so completely out of line with Nancy and Georges characters in particular that it makes me feel a little bit sick.Finally, theres the fact that the very plot itself is completely flaccid. This is a Nancy Drew novel, which usually features at least one instance of Nancy being run off the road, kidnapped, etc. Given that after World War II, there was a time period that it was only socially acceptable for boys to get into truly dangerous scrapes, the dangers that Nancy faces in the novels written during the 1950s and 60s arent usually quite as exciting as those that the Hardy Boys encounter. For example, I recently read a novel where Frank and Joe find themselves in the middle of a gang fight, and the brothers are frequently being bombed or dealing with international criminals. Nancy usually isnt threatened by explosions or gangs, because that would be a bit too rough for our ladylike heroine. But in The Twin Dilemma, Nancy is investigating theft of some of designer fashions and the unexplained brief disappearance of a fashion model who throws a wrench in a charity fashion show. The stakes are so low in this mystery that its quite a disappointment, and danger is pretty much non-existent for most of the novel. At one point, Nancy is locked in a dark office and the electricity is cut for the building (gasp!) so she has to jimmy her way out of the room to avoid spending an uncomfortable night away from home. Another supposedly sinister event in the novel is that Nancy is lured by a fake telegram from her father, which causes her TO STAY HOME ALL DAY instead of going out and investigating the mystery. What an incredibly diabolical plot!! (Please note my hopefully obvious HEAVY use of sarcasm here.) I really think that Mildred Wirt Benson, the original author of the Nancy Drew novels, would roll over in her grave if she read The Twin Dilemma. After all, Benson created Nancy as the kind of girl who sped around in a roadster and carried a gun, for petes sake. And this Nancys biggest physical challenge is bumping her shins on a desk in a darkened office while searching for something to help her jimmy a lock. Also notably, the girls are also considered to be in a bit of danger when they get on a bus going in the wrong direction and dont get home before dark! Nancys Aunt Eloise actually chastises them that they shouldnt be running around New York City at night, which would make sense in some cases (especially in the 80s) except for the fact that these are young women who regularly investigate crimes and brush shoulders with criminals anyway. That pesky career as detectives might be what you want to chastise them for, Aunt Eloise, as opposed to the fact that they got home 20 minutes late...Anyway, The Twin Dilemma is a huge disappointment. If youre used to the Nancy Drew who bravely faces down dangerous situations, I might consider reading this particular novel if I were you.Side Note: Ive now officially reread all the yellow spine editions as an adult... and its on to the original versions of the Nancy Drews, or at least as many as I can get my hands on!

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