In April 2006, the New York Times published a follow-up piece, mainly focused on the blogs of authors who had responded Naomi's piece. It included a direct link to Scott Westerfeld's blog. (I would be rich if I had a nickel for every time I recommended Westerfeld's novels. Also, I commented on his post about Naomi's article, so now I can say I was quasi-referred to in an article in the New York Times, right?)
The Gossip Girl books and The A-List books are not my style. That type of story - a world of drinking and partying where everyone dates everyone - is not for me. Never has been, never will be. Not in books, not on TV, not in films. I don't like gossip. I don't like characters who get away with doing illegal things, who lead lives full of actions without consequences, who get things easily without working for them. I do not like stories in which popular/rich characters mock the unpopular/poor and get away with it.
Similarly, I do not like it when the unpopular kids to change their ways and their appearance to fit in, then live happiy ever after, rather than realizing the changes aren't for them. I would prefer to see those outcasts embrace their unique personalities, discover their own abilities, and say, "I don't need to be popular/rich/phony. I like me just the way I am!"
Gossip Girl and The A-List are far too raunchy and the characters are far too promiscious for my taste. All three series employ vapid, materialistic characters that I don't relate to nor like in the least. The article talked about their naughty ways, yet did not touch on one of the main reasons why I dislike these series: I find the writing to be poor. In other words, not only do I dislike the naughtiness of the situations depicted and the low/skewed values of the characters, but I think that the writing itself is unimpressive.
I always am on the lookout for new authors and series, and regular customers trust me to make recommendations and pre-screen new stuff for them. I ran the children's literature department for years - my absolute favorite position! - and I was there when the first Gossip Girl book hit the shelves. I read it then, and followed the series for a few books for the sake of my patrons. The same with The A-List and The Clique.
I was appalled from Chapter One of The A-List. Drunken hijinks on a plane by someone underage? No, thank you. Yet I had to finish the book. I always have to finish books I begin. I gave the series a second chance, only to find that I disliked the second book just as much as the first book. The only thing I liked about it was the title - Girls on Film - because it makes me think of Duran Duran.
After talking with kids, parents, and co-workers about bestsellers and online reviews, I conducted an experiment. I posted reviews of some of the Gossip Girl books and some of The A-List books to see how many people would respond. Sure enough, those reviews got more hits than many other reviews.
Around this time, I was moderating a teen book group that met on a monthly basis. I discovered that Gossip Girl was being passed around a local middle school, being read by kids as young as 12 years old.
In summary, I don't recommend the Gossip Girl series nor The A-List series to anyone under the age of 16 because I feel that the situations (including but not limited to drug usage, drinking, shoplifting, and nudity) are not for the younger crowd, and that the characters suffer little to no consequences for their actions.
When students who have read The Clique ask me for recommendations, I tell them to check out The Girls by Amy Goldman Koss, Amandine by Adele Griffin, and Define "Normal" by Julie Anne Peters. When older teenagers who have read Gossip Girl and The A-List ask me for recommendations, I hand them Confessions of a Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor, Friction by E.R. Frank, and What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci, among other titles. I also think A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson is a great story which can show kids that the very real struggle of trying to make ends meet.
If you would like additional recommendations, please refer to my Tough Issues for Teens booklist.