Goodreads: The Vanishing Shadow
Series: Judy Bolton #1
When her parents go to the seaside, fifteen-year-old Judy Bolton anticipates a few boring weeks on her grandparents’ farm. Then she overhears a strange conversation about the new Roulsville dam. The workers will go to any length to keep Judy silent. Can she uncover the mystery surrounding the dam and warn everyone before it’s too late?
I initially picked up The Vanishing Shadow because I had read that the Judy Bolton series was a wonderful selection for readers who enjoy Nancy Drew. And Judy has the additional interest of actually aging over the course of her 38-book series, unlike Nancy. Apparently the books were also popular in their own day; the back of my copy states that over 5 million books were sold between 1932 and 1967 and that “the series holds the distinction of being the longest lasting juvenile series written by a single author.” This all made Judy sound very interesting.
At first, however, I admit I was a little skeptical. While Nancy tends to be upbeat, confident, friendly, and polite, Judy comes across as more immature and selfish. The book begins with her peeved at having to spend a few weeks at her grandparents’ farm because she anticipates being bored (even though her home is about 15 minutes away by horse, apparently). Her grandmother notes that Judy does little to help around the farm. Judy just keeps naively dreaming of adventure and mystery, even though she does not come across as that smart or likable, to be frank.
And, as the book goes on, Judy keeps expressing shame at her brother Horace’s “cowardice.” His coworkers call him “Sissy” and Judy really buys into the stereotypes about masculinity that her society perpetuates. She repeatedly chastises Horace for not being man enough, contrasting his timidity with her own recklessness. Probably Judy can’t help being alive in the 1930s and being inundated with gendered stereotypes, but she could stop yelling at Horace.
Still, as the book progressed, it and Judy grew on me. I am not entirely sure that Judy did anything particularly intelligent, but she seems brave enough and possibly can grow into her role as detective. I’m willing to give Judy a chance, so I’ve already ordered book two from the library.