Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #20: Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
I was kind of suffering from writer’s block last week, and in between howling at the heavens for missing pieces to fall from the sky and insight to rise from the earth in a stream of eloquent and structured sentences, I somehow got to reading the Gossip Girl recaps on Television Without Pity. I’d watched most of the first couple of seasons of the show when it first aired, as it was quite relaxing to watch TV where I couldn’t relate at all to anybody’s life, and Jacob Clifton the recapper mentioned the books a few times, and I’ve been on a YA kick lately, so I thought…why not?
I ordered Gossip Girl from my local library, and read it in an evening. I was surprised by some things – the swearing, how the Chuck Bass character is basically a harasser/wannabe-rapist rather than a cavalier, broken soul, and indeed how much all the characters are patrician hooligans instead of overly sophisticated and entitled teenagers. Another surprising thing is how the writer seems to regard her characters with so little sympathy. The tone veers between piss-taking and vitriol-spewing – both Dan and Blair, for instance, are skewered mercilessly, and it is sporadically amusing but quite often just frustrating. It seems more like something written by Bret Easton Ellis than a young adult novel sometimes.
I don’t know. I guess I was disappointed that the TV show – not to mention the recaps – somehow evoke more depth (depth in the most shallow terms possible, like, a children’s inflatable paddling pool rather than a puddle) than the book does, and that Chuck faced no consequences for his treatment of Jenny, and that there was generally no heart or soul. I recently read a couple of the Princess Diary books (the thing that I’m writing is pretty intense and occasionally depressing so escapism-tastic) and by comparison they were warm and witty despite their silliness. Gossip Girl was, by and large, cold. And yeah, it was probably meant to be like that, to evoke the narcissism and entitlement and privilege of the characters who nobody really cares about, even in the book – it’s all frenemies and romances that are more for show than substance (Blair’s fixation for making her relationship with Nate pan out according to cinematic tropes, for example) and oblivious parents wrapped up in their own lives.