Friday, April 28, 2006

The Book of Lost Girls

I have completed my mission to read one book from each of the three big wealthy-girl-gone-bad series. Today, class, we will discuss The Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar.

Basically, The Gossip Girl is the the story of Serena van der Woodsen (van der Woodsen--von Ziegesar?), a wild golden girl who returns to her upscale New York crowd from boarding school, after being kicked out because she was carousing in France when she was supposed to be starting a new semester. Her best friend turns on her because she doesn't want competition for her boyfriend. Or competition in general. Slowly but surely all kinds of gossip spreads about Serena and this leader of the pack finds herself an outcast.

That actually sounds interesting but not much really happens in this story beyond rich kids wandering around being miserable.

The book has a bizarre point of view/voice. While it uses a third person narrator, that narrator is the anonymous "The Gossip Girl" who interjects clever, though snide, comments every now and then. The Gossip Girl is presumably one of the nasty rich girls we're reading about. Though, since new characters were introduced right up until the last chapters of the book and this is a serial, maybe she hasn't turned up yet. At any rate, though she is a character telling the story, she is privy to every action and every thought of every other character in the book.

That isn't possible, and I don't think it would be acceptable in a lot of books. However, I will admit that I suffer from point-of-view anxiety and other readers might not notice.

The Gossip Girl doesn't use anywhere near as many product names in lieu of descriptions as The Clique and The A-List do. It more than makes up for it with increased amounts of sex, drinking, and drugs. These kids are major players in the drinking department. If it's true that the brain continues to develop throughout adolescence, they could be in for some serious problems in a few decades. Not only are they served alcohol in private homes (which we know happens all over--read a newspaper), but they can walk into any bar, lounge, or liquor store and buy booze. These under age characters can organize fundraisers for their underage friends where alcohol is served to them by waiters they've hired.

Don't any of these merchants worry about losing their liquor licenses?

I mentioned a while back that I was reading Daisy Miller. In Daisy Miller a kind, innocent girl is unaware of the constraints of the society she has entered. In The Gossip Girl, mean, experienced girls live in a society in which there are no constraints at all. For the most part, their parents only appear at social functions where their underage children are drinking with them, their staff serving champagne to their childen and their children's friends. No one is around to notice Blair binging and purging. No one is around to notice that Nate is baked most of the weekend. Evidently these kids had free-rein to plan that fundraiser.

All these characters are suffering. Perhaps that's the attraction for readers. Maybe girls read about the unhappy lives of rich, attractive teens and feel better about themselves.

Next post: Are wealthy-girls-gone-bad books a danger to your teens? Stay tuned for our I-Team's Special Report.

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