That’s the name of the book I’m reviewing! I swear, I’m not that cocky. I mean, I’m glad you’re reading my blog but you don’t have to love me. In fact, you can hate me so long as you continue to read this blog. Kidding! But the book I’m talking about is the aforementioned Gossip Girl title I dragged myself through.
The cover says a lot about the book. Really! Like the fact that all the characters are caricatures and the only reason I could picture them at all was 1) due to the ridiculous detailed descriptions of their clothing and hair and physical features, and 2) because I’ve seen the TV show. Which, I have to confess, I was obsessed with for about a season. But not any longer. Still, I think my familiarity with the characters on the show is what got me through this book. Because the characters are all fairly stereotypical rich kids with your usual problems: too many drugs, bulimia, other body image issues, kleptomania (or maybe just a bout of shoplifting), girl fights, too much sex, not enough sex, not liking champagne, rasta-stepbrothers, lazy parents, self-absorbed parents. Some of that sounds like typical teen problems. The rest of it feels adult-like. And not in a good way.
I’m not going to sit here and say that all teen books need to have morals. That’s not true, and most teen books with obvious morals make me gag. But this book has no morals that I can see. I mean, yes, there is some stress when two girls who are friends like/love/have sex with the same boy. I’m just not sure if that has to do with ethics or not getting your way. Most of the teens depicted in Gossip Girl are teens who are used to getting their way. Now, I don’t know if that’s true with all rich kids from the Upper East Side, or anywhere, but it is how people envision them. So let’s say that it’s true, teens on the Upper East Side of NYC live like the teens in Gossip Girl. They have access to Mommy’s credit cards and alcohol and Barney’s any time they want. Fine. I can deal. But that doesn’t save this book.
What would save this book? Here are my thoughts:
#1: Consistent use of technology
This book would appear to be set in the early 2000s, when cell phones weren’t ubiquitous and the Internet was really taking off. Somehow, the “poor” kid in this tale, Dan, has a cell phone but no personal landline at home while his rich crush, Serena, has a personal phone line and no cell phone. Maybe she gets one later? Also, I do prefer the TV show, where all the teens get Gossip Girl updates on their phones. That is sooooo teen!
#2: Fix the parents!
Teen books are notorious for getting rid of the parents. Here, we see glimpses of some truly awful parents. Really, could one adult be normal and/or responsible?
#3: Fix the teens!
While we’re at it, let’s give these teens some personality. It was hard for me not to read in the personalities from the TV show. For once, the adaptation is better than the book. In the book, the teen characters are just shells with body image issues. There’s the girl with big boobs, the tomboy/ugly girl, the rich bitch, etc. And somehow, all these characters appear to have iterations of the same problem. Though I wonder, is that not more true to real life? So many teen books have one nerd, one jock, one hot chick, etc., each with their own separate problems. In real life, I think lots of people have similar problems, only that is less fun to write about.
I have to mention it, especially because the book starts out with Blair thinking about how horny she is and how she is going to lose her virginity that night. Okay. There is often sex in teen books. Teens think about sex a lot. To be fair, (Spoiler!) Blair does not get hers that night or even during the entire book–and not for lack of trying. (end spoiler!) But the way she goes about it is so…adult. Everything about these teens is so adult. And maybe I’m missing something, because teens do play at being adults. It just seems that this is portrayed as expected or normal. There is something off that I am having trouble putting my finger on–and I’m not usually squeamish about sex in teen books.
#5: Nothing happens.
Sure, things happen, if you count gossipy kind of stuff, and I should, knowing the name of the series. But I can’t. There’s some friendship stuff but everything seems so…insignificant, even as the teens think it is totally significant. Maybe this series calls to teenagers simply because no one is trying to give them different ideas. I know teenagers who think this is what their lives should look like, minus Barney’s plus suburban malls. And I can see how that might be appealing.
Though I will continue to dislike this series, I can’t argue that it brings teens into the library and bookstore. Here’s hoping it truly is a “gateway” book!