Every week I review Nancy Drew books, either the originals or the current Diaries series. This time we are up to volume 5 in the Diaries series, Sabotage at Willow Woods.
I just have to say right off the bat that the “Carolyn Keene” of this book obviously did not have the Nancy Drew Bible in front of her/him when writing the book, because there are quite a few continuity errors. Like the fact that Nancy is still in high school in Sabotage at Willow Woods. If Nancy is underage, what was she doing in the first volume of the series, Curse of the Arctic Star, taking a cruise with her friends and friend’s boyfriend unchaperoned? Nancy’s age is never mentioned, but when the Diaries series kicked off that way, I assumed the publishers were sticking with eighteen years old, which is the age Nancy has been since the late 1950’s, early 1960’s (she was 16 originally.)
Also, I get that some modernization of the characters is necessary, but the descriptions of Bess and George are just wrong. George was always tall, athletic, tomboyish. In the Diaries, she’s also a techie. But in Sabotage at Willow Woods, George is petite and hates sports. Um, what? No more judo or tennis or swimming? And not only that, but when describing Bess, the usual are applied, fashionable, good with boys, you know, typical Bess stuff (but at least the new books don’t fat shame Bess like the original series). But then Nancy makes a comment that besides all the superficial stuff, Bess is a great mechanic. ?!!? I get that they’ve got to give Bess some sort of practical skills in the 21st century besides matching her lip gloss to her sweater, but mechanic? Defies logic.
Then there’s the description of Carrie Kim, George’s cousin, who is running for city council. But she’s not Bess’s cousin because Carrie is related to George through her mother. What? Another continuity error. The Sign of the Twisted Candles established that George and Bess were related through their mothers, the Boontons. So, right away, I was not a fan of this book. Hopefully it would improve.
Alas, I was surprised to find in Sabotage at Willow Woods, Nancy makes a lot of poor decisions. A lot. And in this book, she’s not good at going undercover at all and gets found out rather early on. It is like the author did not read any prior Nancy Drew books and just winged it.
George’s cousin Carrie is a former tennis star who, if elected, wants a new football field and sports complex for the Boylestown High School, a rival of Nancy’s own River Heights High. Somehow, even though the field conditions are terrible at Boylestown, and the football team has to use the Y because the school lacks indoor facilities, they’ve won the state championship twice in 12 years. But Carrie thinks the school needs a new sports complex and football field. That plan would cut down about half of Willow Woods, and some people are not happy about it. Carrie receives a threatening note, and Nancy is asked to investigate who could have done it.
Nancy goes undercover as a member of the Green Club, an environmental group at Boylestown High. There’s a boy, Barney, who really takes a shine to Nancy and for some reason, Nancy never explains to him that she has a boyfriend. She figures he might be more forthcoming with information if she leads him on, which is so not like the Nancy Drew I grew up with.
Like I said earlier, Nancy makes some pretty poor decisions and while she does some sleuthing, much of the information she gleans is dropped into her lap without effort. She focuses in on the wrong people as suspects and does not look at some more obvious ones, which turns out to haunt her in the end. She doesn’t so much as solve the mystery, as the suspect reveals themselves.
Spoiler alert: Carrie Kim wins the council seat, and the story flashes forward three months, it’s summer, and the sports complex and new football field, built over the old one instead of taking out a portion of Willow Woods (and at a higher cost), are done. In three months! As an adult, I found this to be the most ridiculous thing in the book. Even if Carrie would have been elected, finding the money to build the sports complex would have taken time, probably with a referendum and added private donations. Plus, she scrapped her original plans and re-did them to utilize the current field, meaning more plans need to be drawn up by architects and mechanical engineers. This project would have taken at least a year, maybe a year and a half, after all the fundraising and tax money allotted to it, and that’s being conservative. But in Nancy Drew’s world, it takes one summer. Unbelievable.
Sabotage at Willow Woods clearly did not work for me. That won’t stop me from buying the Nancy Drew Diaries 90th Anniversary Collection which features the first ten Nancy Drew Diaries with different artwork and comes in an attractive slipcase. Just as the original series occasionally has a stinker, so, too, does the Diaries series, apparently.
For more information about my favorite sleuth, check out Jenn Fisher’s Unofficial Nancy Drew website, which has a wealth of information.
For more of my book reviews, visit www.bargain-sleuth.com
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