Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The trashy series we love to hate (or hate to love...)

As much as I pretend to be a YA literature snob, I'll cop to lounging on the couch and stepping into the oh-so-fashionable shoes of some hot-to-trot fictional socialite. It's fun! Reading without thinking, what a concept! I try to avoid reviewing these books simply because they're pretty much un-reviewable. You can't trash them, because the genre is already called 'trashy.' You can't praise them, because generally the writing comes second to pop culture name dropping.

Here are some of my favourite trashy YA lit series! Hope you enjoy!

1. Gossip Girl by: Cecily von Ziegesar (and ghostwriters)

The best of the best. Must have on any 'so trashy it's amazing' list. Cecily's series started the Upper East Side schoolgirl craze, for sure. The scandals and heartbreak of a troupe of sexy, naughty, elusive teens are told through an anonymous online blog.

Main characters: Blair Waldorf, a classy Audrey Hepburn-wannabe, whose only goal in life is to get into Yale University. Her long-time stoner boyfriend, Nate Archibald, whose affections are divided between Blair and her frenemy, Serena van der Woodsen, Mary Sue to the max.

Warnings: Extensive drug use, drinking, smoking-addictions, bulimia, peer pressure, underage sex, strong language. The word 'virginity' or 'sex' is used on every other page, so if you're not into that scene, stay away.

Extra: has now been turned into a CW TV series with quite a cult following. There's also a prequel in the series, It Had To Be You, as well as two spin-offs, The It Girl (more on that next) and Gossip Girl: The Carlyles, about the next generation of slutty socialites. It also pretty much spawned a million imitating book covers with headless/faceless pretty girls.

Trash bags?: 9/10. The only thing stopping thing from being a perfect ten is the pretentious yet poor character of Dan and his powerful prose. (He's the token wannabe writer in the series.)

2. The It Girl (created by Cecily von Ziegesar) by: various ghostwriters

A spin-off of Gossip Girl, this takes place at an exclusive boarding school in upstate New York called Waverly Academy. After getting kicked out of her single-sex private school in the Upper East Side, Jenny Humphrey (Dan's little sister) goes to a boarding school and tries to reinvent herself. It doesn't really work.

Main characters: Jenny Humphrey, sweet and innocent, Jenny often finds herself falling in love and then having her heart broken. Jenny's roommates, Tinsley Carmichael, Callie Vernon, and Brett Messerschmidt.

Warnings: Pretty much the same as Gossip Girl, but less sex. No bulimia either.

Extra: It should be said that I like The It Girl an awful lot more than GG. In the main series, I didn't really like Jenny's character. She had to much hero-worship for Serena, but she comes into her own when she goes off to boarding school.

Trash bags?: 7/10. Not so trashy as GG, but enough name-dropping and lusting over boys to still be worthy of some Heftys.

3. Upper Class by Hobson Brown, Taylor Materne, and Caroline Says

The prose is elegant, the writing exceptional in this series set at a boarding school called Wellington, and yet, I can't bring myself to buy the rest of the books that are out. It's not as trashy as those mentioned above and everything seems so serious that it just takes a little bit away from my guilty pleasure reading. The cover is enough that it gets grouped in with the aforementioned books, but the content does not match.

Main characters: Laine Hunt, your run-of-the-mill, blue-eyed blonde Wellington girl. Her roommate, Nikki Olivetti, the tattooed, dangerous, bad girl, whose obvious, in-your-face wealth doesn't fit in with her old money classmates. Other books center on different characters, who played more minor roles in the first book.

Warnings: drug, sex, strong language

Extra: One of the best things about the Upper Class books is that they are more classic, more timeless than It Girl or Gossip Girl. The name-dropping is less extensive and makes for a novel you could read ten or five years in the future.

Trash bags: 3/10. Would be even less, but it follows the long-ago perfected formula of Le Trashy Novella.

4. The Clique by: Lisi Harrison

A hybrid of MG and YA, Harrison's well-crafted Clique falls apart after the first couple books. The characters are loosely defined stereotypes and key facts (even simple appearances) are forgotten or changed throughout the course of the story. And yet, I'm hooked. The plot is lesser to, well, (not character development, certainly!) superficial problems and length descriptions of outfits.

Main characters: Massie Block, twelve, is the "uncontested leader" of her elite, single-sex day school. She rules the school with an iron fist and faces haters with a witty comeback. Her life was perfect until "LBR" (loser beyond repair) Claire Lyons and her family moved into the Block guesthouse.

Warnings: None, really. All very G-rated. Some kissing and catfights, though.

Extra: Has been made into a straight-to-DVD movie, The Clique, available now. It was executive produced by Tyra Banks, of Top Model infamy. Has also spawned a short-lived spin-off, The Clique Summer Series, that answers the ultimate fanatic's question as to what each member of the aptly-named 'Pretty Committee' spent her summer doing.

Trash bags?: 7/10. Would be less, but for the lack of plot and copious amounts of hair-flipping.

5. Pretty Little Liars by: Sara Shepard

This is what I like to think of as the best of chic(k) lit for young adults. The characters are flawed, yet it's impossible not to root for them. They go through the same problems we do, except they attend top day Pennsylvania day schools and wear Tiffany charm bracelets.

Main characters: Spencer Hastings, the good girl with some bad habits. Hanna Marin, the popular, lusted-after girl, who's finally nailed the boy of her dreams. Aria Montgomery, the artsy girl, back from Iceland only to have the same old problems resurface. Emily Field, the sporty girl, who's starting to realize that her boyfriend isn't the one for her. Maybe if he were a little more...feminine...

Warnings: Lesbianism (although I'm not sure I'm supposed to put that as a warning. Emily's relationships with other girls are as beautiful and heartbreaking as the awe-inducing Edward and Bella relationship), sex, underage girl/adult male teacher, murder, stalking.

Extra: The best of the best. Perfect for mystery- or true crime-lovers who want to venture into more girlie girl reads.

Trash bags: 2/10. Doesn't really deserve any, but there are still shopping sequences and elite private schools.

What did you think? Anything I missed? Favourites from above?


Khyrinthia said...

I absolutely LOVE Pretty Little Liars. I want the fifth book so bad. Gaaaaah.

Lenore said...

I think of all of these, I'm most interested in Pretty Little Liars. But I haven't read any of them - too much serious lit to read you know ;)

Alea said...

Let's see. My sister has all the Gossip Girl books and a few It Girls so I'll probably read them at some point.

She also has a few of the Clique books but i guess she didn't like them, I just saw the movie this weekend actually. It was ok I guess, those girls are MEAN!

And I found an ARC of the first Pretty Little Liars books several years ago so I'll probably read that as well I (I really don't like those covers GAH!)

Gabbi said...

The UK covers of the books are a lot better, in my opinion. You can view them here:

Alea said...

You are totally right! Thanks for pointing them out!

Hope. said...

I LOVE the PLL series. One of my favorite sereis' ever.

And *cough*I'mabitGossipGIrladdicted*cough*



Anonymous said...

Pretty Little Liars are one of my favorite series. If you like that series you should definitely check out Those Girls by Sara Lawrence it doesn't have the same story line or anything but it just has the same feel cant explain it but its a great book. It has a sequel out but I haven't read it yet will do soon though.

I Love the CW Gossip Girl series! I never miss it It's Fantabulous! I'd pick up the books but i'm afraid it won't be as good so dont know if I ever will.

Sara said...

Of the books in your list, I find Gossip Girl the only series I'm able to read without flinching, because of how Cecily von Z portrays the "perfect" characters in a realistic way. I actually liked the Gossip Girl series. Though I can't say the same for the ghostwritten numbers, or It Girl.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I couldn't get through one of the GG books, yet I couldn't put down the It girl series. However, I love the GG tv series.