Cherry Ames: Student Nurse by Helen Wells

Cherry Ames Student NurseInformation

Goodreads: Cherry Ames: Student Nurse
Series: Cherry Ames #1
Source: Purchased
Published: 1943


Eighteen-year-old Cherry Ames dreams of serving others as a nurse.  She sets off to nursing school to begin her training, but fears she will never pass her probationary period as long as the strict Dr. Wylie seems out to get her.


I have seen Cherry Ames compared to Nancy Drew and, on one level, the comparison makes a lot of sense.  Like Nancy, Cherry presents herself as a confident young woman possessed of all the skills she needs to succeed in a world where men still dominated many careers.  She launched onto the literary scene in the 1940s when she encouraged and inspired young girls not only to try a career in nursing but also to do so in order to help the war effort.  Her message—though never presented as a message in the book—is that girls can achieve anything if they persevere.

Nancy and Cherry share more than confidence, however.  Both are outgoing, cheerful women who seem to have an instinct for saying or doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time.  However, though I now consider Nancy a bit of a Mary Sue, Cherry never grated on me the same way.  Her high spirits occasionally get her into trouble and she is human enough that she can mess up—big time—when put under pressure.  I felt like we could be friends and I found myself deeply invested in her worries and her fears, rooting her on as she struggled to with difficult patients and cheering for her when she made headway in her training.

The drama of nursing school makes for an exciting enough story, but apparently each book also contains a mini mystery.  This is where the comparisons to Nancy Drew breaks down.  Nancy is a detective; Cherry is a nurse.  Though Cherry may, in the line of duty, find herself enveloped in a mystery, the plot never focuses on it.  Nursing, studying, and friendships all come first.  I think that is important because it really sets the two apart. You don’t pick up a Cherry Ames story because you want Nancy Drew; you pick it up because you want Cherry.  She is not a copycat, but utterly and irrevocably herself.

Because the story proved so strong and Cherry so likeable, I was pleased to discover that the series has been reprinted since 2005.  This is something I would love to pass on to young girls, to inspire them to think about the kinds of jobs they would find worthwhile and the types of characteristics that can help them to achieve their goals.  I plan on finding a copy of the second book to discover whether Cherry will finally earn her coveted nurse’s cap.


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