Molly's Reviews > Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
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's review
Mar 27, 09

Read in January, 2007

I don't seem to much like actual teenage girls. Then again, the Gossip Girl characters don't act much like actual teenage girls. Or actual humans really. They are all basically insane in their own individual ways. The main character, Blair, is probably the most insane. I think the reader is possibly intended to be sympathetic to her, but it's never been clear to me why. She's obsessed with Audrey Hepburn, throwing up all her food, and the fact that she is consistently outdone by Serena, her best frenemy who is the other sort of main character. Their relationship is fraught by the facts of

a) Serena losing her virginity to Blair's boyfriend way before Blair does
b) Serena being 1) taller 2) prettier 3) less annoying 4) blonde
c) Serena being seemingly impervious to all outside stimuli, while Blair takes everything personally.

The books either end with Blair and Serena fighting (which usually means Blair acting haughty and pretending to be in Roman Holiday or some such, and Serena being totally oblivious to the fact that Blair is mad at her), or with Blair and Serena making out with each other in front of a bunch of people at some party.

The other characters are all basically secondary. There's Nate, who is Blair's boyfriend and who I think we are supposed to think is a paragon of masculinity (typical description of Nate: "Nate had gotten stoned pretty much every day since he was eleven"). There's Dan, who is I think supposed to be alternative and who shows this by being skinny, smoking unfiltered cigarettes, drinking instant coffee, and writing terrible poems ("you soothe my cuts / and oil my engine") -- he ostensibly has a poem called "Sluts" published in The New Yorker in one book. His girlfriend is Vanessa, who is also alternative -- she makes pretensious films (pigeon pecking at used condom, dog peeing in snow -- ew), shaves her head, and as they mention constantly, is a little bit fat (for these books, that is VERY alternative).

And of course, who can forget Dan's sister Jenny, who now has her own series of books (The It Girl) and whose ONLY attribute mentioned frequently (yeah, yeah, artistic schmartistic, this is all they really talk about) -- that her breasts are 34 DD ("It wasn't like she could hide her enormous boobs anyway. They were just there").

There are also smaller characters who come in and out and basically provide a backdrop to the things that happen to these characters (which are basically lots of sex with each other coupled with occasional brushes with fame that always work out for Serena and never work out for Blair).

The other character though sort of is the "Gossip Girl," who doesn't really exist, or does, or whatever, it doesn't really matter. Throughout the books there are these random pages where it is a fake (well actually sort of real) website that is ostensibly a gossip site for NYC private school kids. I remember in I think 2000 or 2001, there actually was a site like that, and it got shut down really quickly and was a big deal, at least in New York City.

Anyway, those pages don't really advance the action, but they do give them a chance to drop a few more brand names. GG is crazy with the brand names, though they often lose track of what they are talking about (on one page a guy is staring down at his Prada dress shoes, two chapters later he is pensive again yet staring at his Dior loafers -- I guess when you're that loaded, you keep a change of kicks in the limo). But yeah, even their undies (they like La Perla for special occasions, Hanro for everyday) get a namecheck. It's actually most effective when they use the brand names on the characters who are supposed to be less wealthy -- the distinction is pretty subtle and one of the aspects of the books that actually rings true for me. But yeah, it gets ridiculous ("Blair squeezed Tom's of Maine fennel toothpaste onto her Braun electric toothbrush").

Anyway, the Gossip Girl's most interesting/useful aspect comes in 'cause she sort of comments omnisciently on all the characters, which makes it feel as if someone is actually telling you all of this as one long story -- at first I thought it was intrusive, but the more of these I read (and read), the more I actually like it as a conceit. For example, after any of the main characters leaves a room, everyone else in the room will immediately start speculating that they are pregnant or going to rehab or whatever, which is fine. But the Gossip Girl narrator always sort of puts a finer spin on things. I know this is already like a frickin' dissertation on these, but allow me a lengthy quote to demonstrate:

"'No stupid. Blair is seeing that old guy, remember? She's not having his baby anymore, though. She had a miscarriage. That's why she missed so much school.'

'I heard that Blair and Serena both sent in applications to the University of California school system today,' said Laura Salmon. 'They have rolling admission, so you find out which UC school can take you like, a few weeks after you apply.' She raised her strawberry blonde eyebrows. 'Hey, maybe we should all do that!'

'Not that any of them would really have considered going to a UC school.'"

For obvious reasons, that cracked me up. I think in general those kind of references do, as do when they randomly mention like pretty intensely specific NYC references that I am not sure like, twelve-year-olds even in the city would get. But anyway. Sorry. This was so long! And technically about the entire series, not just the first book, but what can you do
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