Title: The Nancys
Author: R.W.R. McDonald
Published: June 3rd 2019
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Rating: 4 stars
Tippy Chan is eleven and lives in a small town in a very quiet part of the world – the place her Uncle Pike escaped from the first chance he got as a teenager. Now Pike is back with his new boyfriend Devon to look after Tippy while her mum’s on a cruise.
Tippy is in love with her uncle’s old Nancy Drew books, especially the early ones where Nancy was sixteen and did whatever she wanted. She wants to be Nancy and is desperate to solve a real mystery. When her teacher’s body is found beside Riverstone’s only traffic light, Tippy’s moment has arrived. She and her minders form The Nancys, a secret amateur detective club.
But what starts as a bonding and sightseeing adventure quickly morphs into something far more dangerous. A wrongful arrest, a close call with the murderer, and an intervention from Tippy’s mum all conspire against The Nancys. But regardless of their own safety, and despite the constant distraction of questionable fashion choices in the town that style forgot, The Nancys know only they can stop the killer from striking again.
The Nancys is gripping and glorious, a heart-warming novel for anyone who’s ever felt they were on the outside looking in. At its heart it is about the family we make and how we must summon the courage to face the truth, no matter what the cost may be.
Highly commended for an Unpublished Manuscript in the 2017 Victorian Premier Literary Awards, The Nancys is the debut novel by New Zealand author R.W.R. McDonald. Snappy and snazzy, with the perfect blend of humour and mystery, The Nancys was a rollicking read from start to finish.
Taking charge of events in this affecting debut novel by R.W.R. McDonald, is the ever delightful Tippy Chan. A compelling eleven year old narrator, Tippy’s life changes when her flamboyant uncle and his boyfriend come to look after her while her mother is on a cruise. With a little help from super sleuth Nancy Drew, Tippy takes on the mystery of the recent death of her teacher. Reeling in help from her friends, Tippy forms a secret detective group, aptly named ‘The Nancys’. Soon things get out of hand when a series of events occur, jeopardising the safety of Tippy and The Nancys. It soon becomes a race against time to stop the killer and prevent the collapse of The Nancys. Who knew so much could happen in such a small town?
When I cast my mind back to my time as an eleven year old, I was a little like Tippy Chan, filled with wide eyed imagination and always thinking of elaborate ways to fill my days. I would have loved to be a part of The Nancys, the secret society in this book. What an adventure! Though I could do without some of the tricky binds and sticky situations Tippy and her crew get into! The Nancys was an utterly agreeable novel, entertaining me completely, from the first page to the last. The Nancys is also a book that balances out moments of consuming darkness, with hope. An ode to life itself, The Nancys reminds us that we all encounter situations of sadness and happiness on an everyday basis.
Child narrators have really come into their own in the last few years. There has been a real surge in novels written from an young adolescent’s point of view, as they learn to negotiate the world around them. I never seem to tire of this mode of storytelling. With the help of The Nancys, I enjoyed the experience of stepping back into my own treasured childhood, through the eyes of the young narrator. In the case of R.W.R. McDonald’s book, Tippy Chan was a fabulous guide. I think I have said this before in texts that utilise a child narrator as the main voice of the story, it must be incredibly hard for a writer to embody and capture the essence of this point of view. R.W.R. McDonald does this with sincerity and flair.
There are other players in this novel that work to support and compliment the unfolding story. From Tippy’s family, friends and other surrounding community members. each players in this novel stands out. A special mention must go to Tippy’s formidable Uncle Pike, a truly sensational character. I liked the way in which this figure had such a big impact on Tippy at a pivotal point in her life. He really was needed and the impression he leaves on his niece was a pleasure to take away from my experience of reading The Nancys.
The Nancys is a detective, or even small town mystery style novel. This thread of the book is juxtaposed with Tippy’s journey in dealing with the grief of the loss of her father. In many ways I saw The Nancys as a commentary on dealing with grief over the loss of a parent at a young age, as much as it was a puzzling mystery novel. There are plenty of plot roadblocks, twists and turns for the reader to contend with. The narrative meanders off in one direction and then pulls you to another. This is the beauty of books, they really are a fabulous form of entertainment!
The Nancys by R.W.R. McDonald was published on 3rd June 2019 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Nancys, R.W.R. McDonald, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.