A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that characters in these addicting guilty pleasures drink, smoke, do drugs, throw parties, and have sex. Their party lifestyle is glamorized (and their own parents are permissive about their drinking); sex is not graphic, but it isn't always equated with love, either. Also, brand names run throughout, from high-end clothing designers to skin products to alcohol brands. They are definitely fun books -- but for grounded teens who aren't going to be swayed by the bad behavior here.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
Manhattan's young, rich, and beautiful throw parties, fall in love, and stress about getting into Ivy League colleges -- all while wearing designer clothes. Their comings and goings are recorded by a secret spy within their fold on GossipGirl.net. The 13 books in the series follow mean-girl Blair, earthy Serena, stoner Nate, edgy Dan and Vanessa, cute Jenny (and others in their circle). Beyond fancy vacations and charity events, they get glam in other ways: Serena models for a hot designer and Dan publishes a poem in The New Yorker. And then there are the inevitable romances: Nate and Blair. Dan and Serena. Nate and Jenny. Dan and Vanessa. You get the picture.
Is it any good?
This is really superficial stuff, but it's no wonder it's such a hit; these rich kids' designer lives are the stuff we've all fantasized about. It's just as easy to relish the high moments (Serena hooks up with a rock star; Dan and Vanessa finally get it on) as it is the disasters (Blair dates her Yale interviewer, only to find out he's the married father of one of her classmates; Nate gets busted trying to buy pot in Central Park). While none of the characters are particularly noble, it's fun watching them throw fabulous benefits (complete with Kate Spade gift bags!) or jet off to a tropical island for the holidays.
The author expertly weaves their various storylines together for maximum energy. But do your kids -- the ones you trust not to take this world too seriously -- really have to read the whole series? (Probably just one or two will do.) The GossipGirl.net interludes are the perfect device, because they remind sophisticated readers of their place in the whole mess: We are not these characters. We are not their friends. We are simply gawkers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of the series and why teens seem to find it so appealing. What do books like these do for their readers? Are they simply guilty pleasures, or do they have lessons to teach? How are you supposed to feel about the rich characters -- envy them, hate them, feel sorry for them?
Also, how does it compare to the popular television show? If you were a parent, would you be more concerned about the books or the TV show? Both or neither?
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