The Debs

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
The Debs Book Poster Image
Southern Gossip Girl has slightly more depth.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Teen girl drama and meanness prevail throughout, along with some neglectful or clueless parenting. A teen is stripped naked and photographed without her knowledge. One elderly woman remarks on a "colored girl" almost being let into an exclusive club.

Violence

A small shoving match between two girls.

Sex

Kissing, making out, and sex between teens in high school, not graphically described. Teen girls are described dressing sexy, wearing and stripping down to lingerie. Plus the typical high school banter of sexual jokes and innuendo.

Language

"Ass" and "bitch."

Consumerism

Labels are the extra debutante in this book: Dolce & Gabbana, Mercedes, Manolo, Vera Wang, Blackberry, Coach, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink, smoke pot, and abuse prescription pills to party and to escape stressful situations.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, like the Gossip Girl books, both mean-girl antics and high-end labels are quite prevalent. In one scene, a girl is stripped naked and photographed without her knowledge. Teens engage in sex (not described in detail) and drink, smoke pot, and abuse prescription pills to party and escape stressful situations.

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What's the story?

Three friends have their pick of designer clothes, but what they really want is to be picked for the coveted Glass Slipper Club. Every debutante in Houston is waiting with baited breath for their invitation. Laura, Michelle, and Ginger not only have to worry about getting their invitations, they worry about the meanest girl in school, Jo-Lynn Bidwell, ruining their chances for debutante heaven. Throw in some family issues and a couple of cute boys and you've got a life full of drama.

Is it any good?

One thing to make clear about DEBS by Susan McBride is that it isn't as vapid or damaging as the Gossip Girl series. The characters have a bit more depth. It is, still, a guilty pleasure full of high-end clothing, debutantes, lots and lots of money, and cute, but confusing boys. As usual with privilege and pretty, there are problems. The girls' struggles with body image and self-acceptance are exacerbated by the perfect deb image they all feel obliged to portray in order to make it into the Glass Slipper Club.

Fashionistas will love the endless clothing parade, and the bright spot that is Laura Bell. She makes some pretty bad decisions throughout the book, but one thing is clear -- at a size 14 she loves herself just the way she is, pushy debutante mom and taunts of "debu-tank" aside.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about wealth. This book takes place in a very wealthy community -- how does wealth affect each of the girls' behavior? Is there a difference between wealth and privilege? Families can also talk about the draw of Gossip Girl-type books. Is it just harmless escapism, or do you think it normalizes bad-girl behavior and materialistic lifestyles?

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