The forty-two yellow spines are aligned like dominoes on my bookshelf, in direct view, eliciting a smile every time I glance their way from my desk. Boxed up for years, these volumes were dusted off and resurrected as décor during my vintage love renaissance some years back. My Nancy Drew series now proudly provides warm memories of childhood bike rides to a neighborhood shop in eager anticipation of spending allowance cash for a new literary fix. While an important part of my youth, those books are still read on occasion as a serendipitous escape from adulting.

An inquisitive teen, my idea of an introverted good time was lounging on my sunny yellow and white gingham-clad bed with a new mystery in hand and our cat close by. A middle school student, my social life was often messy and Nancy, Bess, George, and Ned always seemed to have my back. Their impeccable manners and lack of swearing seemed far more elegant than my days at school where I felt many of my peers should have simply been caged.

I was always a bit jealous of Nancy. Her titian hair was always tidy — even when driving her convertible. Her friends were steadfast and she had the arm of the perfect, gentlemanly boyfriend. She was svelte, smart, and methodical. As a chubby girl in braces sporting a round-the-clock orthodontic headgear, I was a hot mess in the throes of puberty. Nancy possessed what I aspired to. But despite being her antithesis physically, there was one attribute we did share — curiosity.

Her thirst for knowledge solved puzzles; my inquiring mind could not wait to figure out how she did it. I had always been a detail freak (long before I even knew what that meant) and Nancy’s trails of unsuspecting breadcrumbs were right up my alley. I devoured her adventures with reckless abandon, wiling away the hours after homework and chores, nose-deep in crisp pages.

Before I knew it, I was a voracious reader. While enjoying mysteries the most, I branched into other genres, exploring the pleasures of imagination, escape, and variety of writing styles. School writing assignments always exceeded page limits since, guided by Nancy, I left no stone unturned on any given topic.

College, career, and parenting would limit the luxury of free time for pleasure reading or writing, but thanks to Nancy’s nudging, I discovered connecting dots would forever be in my blood too. Eking out potential danger is what mystery lovers have in common with healthcare providers and parents: constant detective work relying on subtle clues and gut feelings.

Unbeknownst to both of us, Nancy had helped lay the framework, and be an example for my future. An innocent pastime had become a formative influence in how I would come to interpret the world around me, realize the importance of my female voice, and reinvent myself in later years.

While fictional, Nancy Drew has been an enduring positive role model for women since she came on the scene in 1930. Known worldwide, her look has been repeatedly updated to be the face of the strong woman, even to this day. It is no surprise she continues to have stature, especially for young girls looking for a good wholesome read, just like I was so long ago.

Nancy’s physical iterations over time underscore the importance of adapting to the times and ensuring our she-voices do not fade. While the Hardy Boys also solved mysteries, Nancy was their equal. It only took one girl, after all, to do the work of two boys.

Over the years I have added to my collection, finding copies in good condition around the same printing date as those purchased in my past. Now a bit harder to find, the thrill of the hunt still piques my excitement, and modern printings are not as meaningful as those from my personal chapter of history.

But regardless of the era in which you meet, Nancy Drew will continue to stylishly offer warmth, smarts, grit, and determination.

I blame Nancy Drew for bringing to life my love of reading, writing, solving enigmas, and reinvention.

I am most grateful. And in the words of our immortal sleuth, “Read, read, read. That’s all I can say.”