The Basics: Gossip Girl, Cecily von Ziegesar, 2002, 199 pages, paperback
How I Found it: Like many people, I often find myself enjoying crap-tastic nighttime soap operas about people whose lives are far removed from mine (mostly because they live in California apparently). Anyway, the big buzz this fall was that the guy from The O.C. were now doing a Gossip Girl TV show. I liked the show (embarrassing to admit, I know), so I thought I would the original book from the series the show is based on.
What's it about?: For those unfamiliar with the premise, the Gossip Girl series is about a group of super-rich teenagers living on Manhattan's Upper East Side, going to private schools, getting drunk and high and spending their parents money. The plot of the first book in the series roughly covers the events of the first two episodes of the show (with quite a few minor differences). Basically, girl leaves town because she slept with best friend's boyfriend and doesn't want to tell her. Girl returns to town, chaos ensues. Also, boy has loved girl for a long time even though she doesn't know who he is, boy and girl meet, fall in love, live happily ever after (or at least until the next book I guess).
Did I like it?: This is teenage trash at its finest. The writing is clunky, the plot is vaguely ridiculous and the omnipotent narrator, "gossip girl", a blogger, is completely implausible. The book reads as if it is trying desperately to impress you with its sophisticated and rich characters. I was not impressed, however. I find the show much better written and better executed. It's not surprising that the book fees poorly put together - a quick glance at wikipedia reveals that the author published 8 of these books between 2002 and 2005 before having the remainder of the series ghost-written. There has also been criticism of the books because they seem to condone underage drinking, drug-use, and teenage sex. While those issues are all facts of everyday teenage life, I'm not sure that the way they are glamourized and idealized in the novel is right message to be sending young girls. These books are aimed at a teen and tween audience and I don't know if I think that is appropriate. However, other critics have said that they are just happy that kids are reading at all. It's sad I guess.
Will you like it?: Unless you are a 14 year old girl who wants to piss-off their conservative mom by secretly reading this book, I don't think it is worthwhile. However, spending an hour a week vegged out in front of the TV watching the television series is something I do recommend.
But don't take my word for it: Some info (including appropriate age groups) and reader reviews from Amazon (check out the 1 star reviews for some truth), a sugar-coated review from the teen site Girl Posse, and a New York Times article about the affect of books like this on tween fiction.