Thursday, May 15, 2014

Nancy Drew Diaries #6 - Review

Nancy Drew #30 is taking up most of my time now. One project that's getting pushed to the side is my review for this month's Nancy Drew book. Here's the script for the review, which I will eventually turn into a video.

---

I got a special surprise in the mail last week, which means it's time for another book review!

Nancy Drew Diaries #6: Secret at Mystic Lake, was published on May 6, 2014. It was written by Carolyn Keene, who invented the recumbent canoe in 2003 and who is so good at biking that she won the 2002 Tour De France while in Australia.

The premise of the last book was that George hates sports. Well, in this book, George suddenly likes sports again. *CONTINUITY!* For her birthday, George is going on a three day, 105-mile biking trip at Mystic Lake. Nancy and Bess are going too, but Bess is very reluctant because sweating is just not a Bess thing.

The leaders of the trip are a pair of twins named Caitlin and Henry Moorehead. Caitlin is the responsible one, who plans for everything and is going to Yale next year! Henry is the lazy one who screws up a lot. He forgot to print out the maps for the trip, and instead of going to college, he's going on vacation.

Wait, you can go on vacation instead of going to college? Why didn't anyone tell me about this in high school? That would have saved a TON of money!

The other two members of the group are an older hippie named Dagger, and a girl named Zoe Ferullo who loves One Direction and Project Runway. Zoe and Bess become instant best friends and spend all their time gossiping about TV and shopping. This makes George sad, because she was hoping to bond with Bess during the trip.

Hmmm...so this book is about a group of teenagers who are camping in the woods with a crazy hippie. I think I saw this in a horror film once.

When the group stops to have lunch, they leave their gear unattended on the road. Before you can say, "That's a dumb idea", most of the gear gets stolen. Everyone votes to keep going, because common sense would ruin the book.

A rainstorm breaks out that night, so Nancy, Bess and George all pile into Zoe's tent. George argues with Zoe, and she tries to guilt-trip Bess. It's interesting to see George and Bess take pot shots at each other, but...I'm gonna side with Bess on this one. She made it very obvious that she dislikes biking and she only agreed to join this trip for George.

The main plot of the book finally shows up, a third of the way through. Early in the morning, Caitlin and Henry get into a fight over a text message. Not long after, Caitlin screams and disappears. The group searches for her for an hour, and Henry and Dagger get in a minor tiff over what happened.

It quickly becomes obvious that Henry is not fit to be a leader. Not only has all the food disappeared, but Henry has no idea where to find the emergency satelite phone. Henry is the only one with a map of the area, but he gets the group hopelessly lost as they try to reach a ranger station.

At the end of the book, we get told that the culprit switched Henry's map for a fake one. However, I still question the fact that the group got lost, while following bike trails. Are there no signs on the pathways at national parks?

The fight between Dagger and Henry escalates as Dagger pulls out a dagger and demands to have the map. Zoe confiscates the knife, and after biking for an entire day, the group sets up camp by a stream. While they do so, somebody slashes the tires on the bikes.

...This would have been a lot more dramatic if the back cover of the book hadn't spoiled it for us.

More fighting breaks out. Henry and Dagger take the map and go on foot towards the ranger station, while the girls camp here and have a fun karaoke competition. Finally a break from the fighting.

Then, with no prompting whatsoever, Bess and George end their minor fight and become best cousin friends again. That was easily resolved.

Ah, but the culprits have decided that Nancy is too much of a threat! Not sure why. Nancy isn't even close to solving the mystery. Still, the culprits decide to tip their hand and attack Nancy in the dark woods.

Nancy runs for her life, and by huge coincidence, she happens to find a canoe. She paddles from the stream to the lake, and by another huge coincidence, she happens to find a small cabin with the culprits inside.

The culprits are Caitlin and Zoe. Caitlin reveals that she secretly hates her brother Henry. He always gets whatever he wants without trying, while she works as hard as she possibly can, and she gets nothing!

Pretty sure a full scholarship to Yale doesn't count as "nothing", Caitlin.

Caitlin and Zoe met each other at Overachiever Girl Camp--apparently those exist--and they concocted this plan to sabotage Henry's reputation. They purposely ruined the trip, so Henry will be blamed for everything, while they have a cozy vacation in this lakeside cabin.

Caitlin's plan is solid, but the problem is that the entire thing is unnecessary and overly complicated. If the plan was to make Henry look bad, all Caitlin had to do was disappear to her hidden cabin and do nothing. Henry would have messed everything up by himself. There was no need to constantly sabotage the trip and almost kill the campers.

The icing on the unnecessary cake is Henry and Caitlin's fight over the text message. It turns out Henry has a secret gambling debt to the tune of $6000. Caitlin could have easily discredited Henry weeks ago, by making this information public. So why didn't she?

Once Caitlin and Zoe finish explaining everything, they decide to lock Nancy in a shed until the trip is over. What are they going to do afterwards, when Nancy rejoins civilization and tells the police? Dunno. The high achievers don't think that far ahead.

The girls drag Nancy away, but she pinches Zoe in the armpit, which lets her escape. She takes the canoe back to the camping area, where she gets Bess and George.

They run away and luckily find a car belonging to a park ranger. Looks like Henry and Dagger found the ranger station after all!

We get told the culprits were arrested offscreen, while the girls get a pancake breakfast. They decide that George's next birthday should be a slumber party. The End.

---

Post-Book Followup:

After reading this book, my girlfriend went on a rant about how the criminals in this series are huge wusses. They only commit petty crimes, not real crimes, and their motivations and explanations are so haphazard. It feels like the author makes up the motive and explanation as an afterthought, instead of working out the culprit's plot ahead of time.

The book doesn't give a motive to Zoe. In fact, I have no idea why she is Caitlin's accomplice. Caitlin could have easily done everything without Zoe's help. You know what? Let's add Zoe to the unnecessary elements to the plan.

To its credit, the book does a good job of introducing all the suspects and important plot points in the first chapter. It also does a good job with characterization, one of the consistent strong points of the series. Even if the characters tend to be general stereotypes like "hippy, screwup and valley girl", they are still interesting to read about.

I'm on the fence, as to the fight between Bess and George. It's interesting, but it doesn't go anywhere, and it just sort of...ends.

On a side note, this book bears a strong resemblance to Nancy Drew Files #6: White Water Terror. It's a sporting / camping trip, where the equipment is sabotaged and the food is stolen, leaving the group lost in the woods. One of the two group leaders disappears, only to reappear as the culprit. The similarities between the two books are probably just a coincidence, but it's kind of odd that Book #6 in two different series have a lot in common.

I'm giving this book a four out of ten, the below-average score. As always, I'm removing one point, because the book is double-spaced to make it twice as long. Even the Nancy Drew series for eight-year-olds doesn't pull that trick.

So that means my final score for Nancy Drew Diaires #6, Secret at Mystic Lake, is a three out of ten.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Check out today's AS blog post! :)

Anonymous said...

My one direction bell went off then i was like this is getting good. As 4 the whole book it doesnt sound that great

CvilleTed said...

Thanks for the review. This series really is terrible; the writing, plotting, and clumsy first person narration drag these books down. I do love the covers and the titles (I miss the missing "The" in the titles). Amy Cloud is the editor of this book and I did send an email about some of the flaws in the book. I have not received a reply. Nancy does no investigating, she stumbles on the solution after numerous (boring) acts of sabotage. I am giving book #7 a chance ("The" is back in the title) but if it is not an improvement I am bailing on this series!