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Young Adult Literature Reviews
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Gossip Girl: Like most juicy stories, it started at a party.
Cecily von Ziegesar.
Gossip Girl: A Novel
. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2002.
by Cecily von Ziegesar is an easy read about the glamorized lifestyle of high school seniors at Constance High School. It is a huge hit amoung teen-age girls and it is no wonder why. It is a guilty pleasure full of lavish parties, fundraisers, drinking, smoking pot, sex, money, fashion and shopping. The main characters are living the high life of the disgustingly rich with an endless access to money, designer clothes, and alcohol. "We have unlimited access to money and booze and whatever else we want, and our parents are rarely home, so we have tons of privacy. We're smart, we've inherited classic good looks, we wear fantastic clothes, and we know how to party" (3). Like reality, not all the characters are from the Upper East Side and belong to this world, though some wish they were.
While superficial, the book does touch on issues that many teenagers can relate to and face today. The main character, Blair is struggling to accept her mother's new boyfriend, Cyrus Rose. Her father left her mother for another man and is running a vineyard in France. She also is dealing with the return of her "former" best friend who she can never live up to. Everybody loves Serena. She is amazingly beautiful, crazy and fun. "When Serena was gone Blair was the prettiest, the smartest, the hippest, most happening girl in the room. It was easier to shine without Serena around" (21). While these issues of divorce and jealousy are touched on, they are by no means addressed and are never fully explored. The book also skims the suface of the pressure to be skinny and eating disorders, the meaning of a true friend, drinking away your problems, sex and love. These themes are prevalent in the lives of teenagers and are left dissappointingly undeveloped throughout the novel.
Adding a little suspense to the novel are the gossipgirl.net interludes. Scattered through out the book, these are blogs were the world can stay in touch with the lives of the privileged teens in New York. The real names of people and places are not used to protect the innocent, but really to protect the identity of the webmaster, gossip girl.
lacks a meaningful plot and does little to inspire thought provoking dicussions. The book is meant for pure entertainment to escape the realities of everyday life.
Recommendations for Teachers
The soap opera plot style in
leaves teachers with very little instructional value. In addition to the superficial plot; the sexual promiscuity and alcohol abuse in the book makes it one that is not highly recommended and should not be considered for a common text, or even a book used in literature circles in a classroom. Additionally, the premise of the book is such that it is probably not accessible to male students. Issues of alcohol abuse, loyalty, friendship and relationships are addressed in the book and could lead to quality discussion with some work. Additionally, students could be pushed to develop their skills in providing texual support for issues by being asked to take a position against a character or scene. For example; 'Would you side with Blair or Serena?" or "Was Blair justified when she didn't change Serena's address on the guest list for the party?" but these scenarios are rather superficial and quite limited within the text. Controversies of adolescence can be an important theme to encourage students to explore through text, however, the a-moral approach of
make it much less appealing than similar books such as
//Queen Bees and Wannbees//
and movie inspired by the book,
For many of the reasons why this book would not be recommended in a classroom, it is a book that teenage girls can relate to quite easily. In a world where the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about; young girls will easily find themselves relating to the different characters in the book. Backstabbing, sexuality, social status, friendship, eating disorders and social engagements are all themes in this book that teenage girls inevitably face. Set in the Upper East Side,
is a glamorous, and likely exaggerated, version of many girls experience on a daily basis. It is understandable that many young girls would devour books in this series in the same way that many adult women devour romance novels. It would be foolish to ignore the escapist and enjoyment factors that might have young readers enthralled in a book series, so despite the non-instructional endorsement;
and the series could be a good independent or free-time read. However, it should be accompanied with a permission slip due to the controversial issues explored in the text.
About Cecily von Ziegesar
Von Ziegesar was raised in Manhattan where she attended a private girls' school on the Upper East Side. Her writing career began at an early age. She wrote short stories and poetry as soon as she was able to hold a pen.
was her first novel and has been followed up with several books in the series. She is also the author of the
series. Her books have been criticized as nothing more than a written soap opera since they follow the lives of rich girls in Manhattan who deal with sex, drugs, alcohol and boys. Supporters of the books say von Ziegesar is writing about contemporary issues. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her husbnd, son, daughter and an almost hairless cat named Pony Boy.
Information courtesy of :
Multimedia (Video or Audio)
The first video is a short interview with Cecily von Ziegesar where she comments on explaining how she relateds to the characters in her book. The second is the author's reflection on who Gossip Girl is. The third video is a scene from the book as portrayed by the television show, Gossip Girls on CW, which is inspired by the books.
Gossip Girl Podcast by authors of page
The official website for the book.
- A great resource for teens and parents of teens struggling with alcohol abuse.
- Date rape is more common than we like to admit. Find out the statistics and information about dealing with date rape.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-
This is a great site that deals with helping teens build healthy/positive relationships.
- The National Eating Disorder Associations website, which has many resources for people struggling with eating disorders.
- This site gives four steps on how to deal with gossip at school.
- Check out the most pertinent information on teen drug abuse. Great for parents and teens alike.
Gossip Girl's MySpace page.
Serena's MySpace page.
Blair's MySpace page.
- A link to the CW's televison series inspired by the book series.
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--Kaye Martin, Kati Hoekstra, Amanda Cooper, Leigha Golden
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