"Thoughtful and funny . . . [Mason] argues that the books are worthy of serious study because analyzing them helps us to discover who we really are, and who we want to become."
"Marvelous . . . Would make a wonderful present for any nostalgic veteran reader of Nancy, Cherry Ames, Judy Bolton and the Bobbseys."
"Insightful, sometimes amusing, observations about the social implications of these series which offered girls the promise of adventure without straying too far from conventional expectations."
"Mason's engaging analysis . . . allows a new generation of adults to understand what made the series so irresistible."
—Christian Science Monitor
"The well-known writer of adult fiction remembers the girl detective series books she read as a child and takes a critical look at the pleasures and effects of reading these mysteries."
"A lively, readable, rueful look back . . . It's a celebration of the tamed but still heartening message that Nancy Drew provided—the comforting assurance that the world was a mysterious place but that its secrets could be solved by any girl smart and brave enough to try."
—San Jose Mercury News
"Nostalgia with a mordant flourish . . . A delightful exposition of our flawed but nourishing earliest heroines."
—Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, author of An Accidental Autobiography
"Indispensable to the history of women's reading in the U.S. Mason is observant, funny, and opinionated when it comes to her girlhood reading."
—Janice Radway, author of A Feeling for Books
The Girl Sleuth is a book for anyone who fondly recalls her late-night adventures inside a bedspread cave with a flashlight, a handful of snitched cookies, and a savvy heroine who has just two chapters left in which to decode the message, find the jewels, unmask the impostor, and then catch the next express to the big city.
In this long-out-of-print work, which was first published in 1975, Bobbie Ann Mason examines the girl detective in her various guises through a combination of childhood reminiscences and insights as a fiction writer and observer of American popular culture. Mason ranges in her coverage from the Bobbsey Twins to the glamorous career-girl detectives Vicki Barr, Cherry Ames, and Beverly Gray to her own adolescent favorites--Judy Bolton, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden, a farm girl like herself. Mason's personal recollections of a rural youth spent longing for mysteries to solve represent a quintessential American girlhood experience.
Mason reveals Nancy Drew ("as cool as Mata Hari and as sweet as Betty Crocker") to be a paradoxical figure: on the one hand a model of independence and courage; on the other, a lady, eternally feminine and firmly devoted to the preservation of middle-class values. The girl sleuths "thrilled us and contented us at the same time," the author writes. Holding up Nancy Drew as a model of "the conventional and the revolutionary in one compact package," Mason shows how the series heroines encouraged young readers to "dream big" and stay open to life's possibilities, dished up antidotes to spoon-fed notions of traditional femininity, and amiably subverted the literary snobbery of child experts, librarians, and book reviewers.
Everyone who grew up reading mystery books will enjoy Bobbie Ann Mason's witty, sometimes nostalgic, observations on popular culture, childhood, and the pleasures of reading and writing.