I was beginning to give up on the Nancy Drew Diaries. The books I’d read previously all centered around sabotage as the plot device, and I felt that was getting a little old. I wanted the publishers to shake things up a bit. The Sign in the Smoke (Amazon) was a step in the right direction.
“When Bess asks Nancy and George to be counselors at her old camp, they’re a little wary. After all, running around after a bunch of little kids doesn’t exactly sound like fun! But Bess promises that the girls will get to enjoy nature, relax by the lake, and play some sports. Plus, it will give Nancy a much-needed break from solving mysteries.
But trouble always finds Nancy Drew! After hearing the disturbing tale about a camper who had drowned in the lake years ago, Nancy dismisses it as a ghost story. But then something pulls her under water during a swim lesson—something eerily human, with long, silvery hair. And the next night her entire cabin’s sleeping bags disappear—only to show up at the lake, soaked.
Now Nancy isn’t so sure if she believes in ghosts! All she knows is she has to do everything within her power to make sure her campers—and her friends—are safe. Which means she’d better get to the bottom of what’s happening at Camp Cedarbark.”
There’s something about the Nancy Drew Diaries that I don’t like. Maybe it is because they are written in the first person, maybe it’s because the publishers want Nancy to be more relatable, but I don’t like that she always seems to be filled with self-doubt. She’s not sure how good of camp counselor she can be, since she never went to camp as a kid. (Seriously, Nancy proclaiming herself to be a bookworm and not interested in the outdoors is very un-Nancy-like). No longer is Nancy an expert swimmer, but someone who has trouble treading water for two minutes.
Also, what’s up with Nancy not wanting to solve a mystery? Sure, I can see someone needing a break, but when mysterious stuff starts to happen at camp, I’m sure her detective radar automatically turned on. But at first, she refuses to acknowledge it, willfully ignores the clues, even though people could get hurt by the strange happenings. Once Nancy succumbs to the pressure to investigate, she totally gets it wrong and picks the wrong suspect. She’s blind-sided by the real culprit, although I don’t blame her because I went through this book twice, and the guilty party was barely mentioned. Then, Nancy kind of freaks out when confronted by the bad guy and has to be saved by a 10-year old girl.
However, there were things to like about this book. Themes like inclusion, and being good friends. There’s a girl in Nancy’s camp group, Harper, who doesn’t seem to gel with the other girls and keeps to herself with her books during free time. Nancy finds a way to get Harper to open up and gets the other girls to take notice and include her in their little group.
I’m still on the fence about the Nancy Drew Diaries as a whole. They have some of the features that has made Nancy an inspiration to girls since she debuted 90 years ago. But some of the changes to her character feel out-of-place and just make her seem like a regular girl, but not someone you’d look up to. She’s just a teen who solves mysteries in her spare time.
The Sign in the Smoke was my 12th Audiobook of the year towards my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.
For my Nancy Drew book reviews, click here.
For more information about my favorite sleuth, check out Jenn Fisher’s Unofficial Nancy Drew website, which has a wealth of information.
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