Uglies in the NY Times

Naomi Wolf has an article in the NY Times today, in which she disses the heck out of Gossip Girl and its spin-offs. Also, Uglies gets a positive mention (see below).

She starts by warning parents:

They carry no rating or recommended age range on the cover, but their intended audience—teenage girls—can’t be in doubt. They feature sleek, conventionally beautiful girls lounging, getting in or out of limos, laughing and striking poses. Any parent—including me—might put them in the Barnes & Noble basket without a second glance. Yet if that parent opened one, he or she might be in for a surprise.

Oooh, scary. But one question: Does anyone buy books “without a second glance”? Really?

And another: Is Naomi Wolf calling for parental advisory labels on books? I hope not. Probably this is more of a “hook” than an argument. It’s like when the local TV news says, “Some scientists think that this common household cleaning product can kill you! Details at eleven.”

Because teen culture is just like chemicals: to comprehend it you have to be some sort of gnarly expert. And it’s dangerous! Terribly dangerous! So I’m sure there are people out there who do want warning labels. Reading stickers is easier than, you know, talking to your kids about what they’re reading.

What Wolf is really obsessed about it the lack of judgement these books take against their shallow, vain characters. She says they’re “like Lord of the Flies, set in the local mall, without the moral revulsion”? And it’s true—there is no moral revulsion on the page in GG. There’s ironic detachment, but you have to bring your own revulsion.

But you know what? My guess is that teens do bring their own value system to these books. No doubt some read them in a totally shallow way: “I wish that was me all beautiful, dripping with Prada and ruining some other girl’s life.” But I know for a fact that others read them as satire, as an attack on the shallowness they portray. And some read them simply as a tacky pleasure. (I sort of like excessively self-centered characters, just like I sometimes enjoy excessively top-loaded ice-cream sundaes.)

I’ve only read one GG, and I liked it that there’s a bulemic character, but without bulemia being the central arc. It’s just something that happens, something unpleasant, but not The Plot. (Sort of like having a character in a wheelchair, but being in a wheelchair isn’t the whole friggin’ point of the book.)

GG did bore me with its relentless brand names. (Stephen King does too.) My eyes bleed when books employ brand names instead of adjectives and dramatic exposition. But this isn’t a moral failure; it’s an artistic one. You can read brand-name overload as satire, wish-fulfillment, or product placement.

So instead of worrying about the lack of moral instruction in GG, maybe parents should focus on knowing what kind of people their kids are—the subversive kind, the kind who like a good trashy read, or the kind obsessed with status. And instead of warning that YA packaging doesn’t give adequate parenting info, maybe Wolf should encourage parents to talk about books with their kids. (Strangely, this suggestion never comes up in her article. Not once.)

The Good News

Of course, we all know that my books are chock full of moral-icious goodness. And to prove it, there’s a sidebar to Wolf’s article that lists eleven decent and uplifting books. Uglies is the very last one. (Damn you, alphabetical order!)

So I’m curious. How many of you guys have read the Gossip Girl and A-List, Clique books? And what do you think they did to your moral fiber? And how many of your parents talk to you about what you’re reading?

56 thoughts on “Uglies in the NY Times

  1. Having read Ms. Wolf’s article in it entirity, I can now confidently say that I find much of what she said disturbing. Its not so much the content of the books, but rather the fact that she continually implied that teenagers, because of our age, are so impressionable that if we’re told its cool than we’ll go out and do it. What is it with so many people today? Just the other day I can across an article by a college Economics professor commenting on how impressionable teenagers are. I believe it was called “Indoctrination of our Youth”. Needless to say I didn’t agree with much of his article…

    Personally, I feel that teenagers aren’t given enough credit. We are capable of making up our own minds and holding true to our moral codes.

    I myself have never read the books. Haven’t even ever thought about reading them. They aren’t the typical books that I would be interested in, but do I think if I did they would change my view of the world, or corrupt my ‘moral fiber’? No. Absolutley not. I am far too oppinionated for that. Personally, I don’t think that anything can ever interfere with your moral system unless you allow it to.

    My parents don’t outright talk to me about what I’m reading. Every so often they’ll ask, or I’ll bring it up. My parents feel that I can read what I want, they don’t feel the need to sensor or regulate what I read. They trust me to make my own descions.

  2. Im in the same boat as Sandy, though she does sound much older and more educated than I. Being 13, i have sat in the young adult section for hours at a time looking for several books to tide my mind over for a month or so (this is the process i used to find your books Scott). And i have seen the Gossip Girl series many times, and each time i pick one of them up and read the first few pages, and each time I think that they sound shallow and put it back on the shelf.
    But Sandy is right, adults dont normally give us the credit we deserve, there are teens who choose to go down the path of drugs, alchohal, ect, but not all of us do, I dont, and i dont plan to, and no book will change that.
    As for my parents and the books i read, I will run out of my room after a big part happens and tell my mom the story as if im rereading it to her, Its like one of my favorite things to do. So she knows exactly what im reading, and i read everything from Uglies to Cut to Speak, and she hears about them all.

  3. I agree in full with the last two comments.

    I’ve picked up those books once or twice. Of course, it’s the cover that takes you. And every time I’ve pulled back the illusive cover, I find no depth at all to the story.

    I’ve sat for hours in Borders, in the YA section. Scanning the goods, and the bads. And from what I was taught, a good book has a story. (Hence, Mr. Westerfield 🙂 ) And also, that a good book has a meaning, especially those of science fiction.

    Now, I’m not saying that teens who drink and smoke and all that stuff don’t read, but I haven’t happened upon any of them who have a defined interest in reading litterature or just enjoy reading for the heck of it. Some adults do take for granted that there are some of us out there, myself nearing sixteen, that choose to stay home on Friday nights and grab a good book, watch some House, and enjoy the night- drug and drink free.

    Now, a lot of what I read, my parents read. Or at least my father. (My parents are still together, I might add.) As for the Uglies series, both my mother and my father have taken an interest in the story, and, though neither of them have actually read the books, know the story almost as well as I, due to my reading of passages and explanation of the characters and the idea of this freighteningly near reality of the culture’s obscessive need for beauty and perfection, as well as it’s fear of mortality and lack of respect of age.

    I think that because of parents’ fear of their kids’ disliking them, they grab what their “little girl would want”. And I respect my parents for letting me pick my own books, for taking an interest in my interests. Especially, for knowing that they have brought me up well enough that I know what is right and what is wrong, even further in backing me up the whole way.

  4. Sorry, Scott. Guilty pleasures. I don’t read Gossip Girl, but the Clique… I hate them but I love them. They’re like mini Paris Hiltons. They’re, like, totally, cringe-making, but addicting. Unike your work, which is actually good. I read the Clique books because they’re so unbelivable, the characters are flat (in the two dimentional-way), and I enjoy feeling like I actually deserve what I get. Lisi Harrison has nothing on you, Scott. Keep writing the way you write, and never, ever use the brand-names. Nuff said.

  5. I’ve a few books out of each series…
    1. Clique- I think it fails to realistically portray seventh graders. I read them for two reasons. First of all, I have the most fun critqueing them and making fun of them with my friends. Second of all, they’re kind of addicting thing and a fun realtively brainless way to pass time in a car.
    2.A-List- I’ve only read a few of these, my mom actually picked them up for me at the library (perhaps using this second glance that Naomi speaks of). They were addicting, a guilty pleasure sort of like a soap opera. The writing was better in this book as well. One time my older cousin grabbed my book and was reading the inappriate bits out loud and then made fun of me. My mom said I can’t censor everything she reads or something.
    3. GG- I’ve read almost all of these. My mom knows I read them, although she probably doesn’t know exactly what they’re about. I use this books as occasional break from stress, but they’d never be my fave. books or anything.

    I can safely say that after the reading of the aforementioned books my moral fiber did not suffer any significant amount, in fact it probably improved pushing me more against that sort of thing.

  6. I gotta admit it: i like GossipGirl. They’re not good books, they’re not particularly well-written, but i like them. I like them because they let you do this delicious kind of double-identification. One one hand, you are laughing at and scorning the Beautiful People, because they are so shallow and self-obsessed, and even though they have everything in the world, they are all still utterly miserable. But on the other hand, there is just that tiniest part of you that wishes you were them…

    But I’m sorry, Naomi. If you’re the kind of young person who is going to be Morally Corrupted, then there isn’t a book, nor a tv show, nor a computer game, that is going to change that. And you can only let your kids read Travelling Pants and other Wholesome Reads, and never watch tv or play computer games, but unless you plan on locking them in the cupboard under the stairs until they turn 21, they are STILL GOING TO TALK TO OTHER YOUNG PEOPLE. and there aint nothing in the GossipGirl books that you won’t find in the schoolyard.

  7. 1. Clique- I think it fails to realistically portray seventh graders. I read them for two reasons. First of all, I have the most fun critqueing them and making fun of them with my friends. Second of all, they’re kind of addicting thing and a fun realtively brainless way to pass time in a car.

    Exactly. The girls are 12, and they already have credit cards for everyday use!

  8. I am obsessed with the Clique series! Awesome. And dude, these seventh graders are rich! All the girls at my school are rich, and they all have credit cards, cell phones, and cars for when they turn 16. And they’re all in eighth grade! There are rumors that Hilary Duff lives in Blackhawk, the richest neighborhood in town. Basically the equivilent of Beverly Hills, only some of the houses are slightly smaller. In fact, I knew a couple of second graders who had cell phones. It was scary. I don’t get a cell phone until I get a car. Nor a credit card. And I don’t get a car till I get a license.

    In the beginning of the first Gossip Girl book, they start by saying that even though they’re underage, they get to drink. My science teacher sniffs peoples’ water bottles because once, a group of eighth graders got drunk in her class. At my sister’s school, girls used to put vodka in perfume bottles, and spray when the teacher wasn’t looking. So, yeah, these books might not be realistic in all places, but they are realistic in some places. Oh, yeah. There was this sixth grader at my school last year who got pregnant. And no, she wasn’t raped.


  10. Ahh, LooLoo.. Creepy. Sixth grade? My mom read Uglies and Pretties.. And she liked it. Oh, and my mom does not discuss my books and their moral values.
    Btw, Scott, did Tally and Zane have sex? I’m not quite sure.

  11. I feel that all three of these series are brand-heavy and money=status-heavy. I think The A-List and GG are inappropriate for grade schoolers to read due to the R-rated content. I am unimpressive by the writing of The Clique. All rely on names and brands, and I feel the writing is unimpressive, filled with vapid characters whose values, morals, and standards are not very high.

  12. I haven’t read any of those books, I’ve something disdainful for them in fact. I’ve been slowly gravitating away from young adult fiction (after, oddly enough, two years in middle school of reading intense adult sci-fi), and I only ever read sci-fi and fantasy and social commentary pieces for young adult. However, I have read Life is Funny, which is an amazing book and a good example of weaving vignettes, an older kids version being the book Twelve.

  13. I don’t read the GG’s. (Haha, the GG’s. Just say that, it’s fun…or maybe I’m just tired…) The title/cover/description repelled me, and I was usually able to find something that looked better to me.
    “And what do you think they did to your moral fiber?” Didn’t read those particular ones, but I generally don’t let fiction influence me that way.
    And yeah, my mom asks me what I read. And I tell her, and she’s all “Okay. So there’s nothing like…you know?” and I tell her how little “you know” is in it, and everything is all good.

  14. You know I’ve never even had any interest in reviewing any of these books because they just look a little too formula heavy for me – and they are popular enough that a review in bookslut isn’t really going to matter anyway. I think they are pretty much trash, but I’ve read and enjoyed plenty of trash in my day and I can appreciate that sometimes that’s the book you want to read. I mean really – we’re not all going to read Shakespeare at the beach are we? (God, I hope not!) When I was in high school it was Harlequinn romances and now it’s GG and the rest. As far as I know, none of us went insane or became bad people by reading those books, so I’m sure that everyone will be just fine reading these. I just wish that Naomi Wolf had spent her time more constructively and written about some great YA books to give you guys some more ideas. I’m glad at least someone at the NYT did!

  15. Well, I have read Gossip Girls and The A-list. They’re pretty good. They are very funny, even though I am sure they’re not meant to be that way. It’s all just so out there, it makes it entertaining.
    I must say when I first picked up the books I didn’t think they would be as provocative as they were, but it was needed for the dramatic aspect of the book.

  16. I don’t know. But I’ve also not read the A-List, Clique or GG books.

    I think most of us who read, read for entertainment, not for moral lessons. In which case, does it really matter?

  17. i have read one of the gossip girls it was ok, not a bad influance or anything.

    but my mom knows what i read, she is ok with me reading whatever i want too. she knows i read for enjoyment, not lessons(except in ‘i am cheese’, that was a good book). she thinks that if i am mature enough to know what i want to read, then i am mature enough to know what i shouldn’t read.

  18. Why is it that every time any teen does anything everyone starts asking “do their parents know?”. Personally, I don’t figure every detail of my life is my parent’s business. Sure, they usually take a passing glance at something if I’m into it long enough, but I know people who’s parents just have to preview their books, read their diaries, be introduced to their friends and know what they’re doing at all times. Hello, we don’t butt into our parent’s lives, what gives them permission to butt into ours? Sometime they’re going to have to learn that if they treat their kids like criminals that’s exactly what they’ll be. If you’re parents keep you from doing immoral things that are basically harmless, you’ll start doing harmful things as soon as you’re out from under their control. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen dozens of times.

  19. I’m a 38 year old mom of 3 teenagers, 2 of them girls. I don’t need warning labels on novels, or CDs for that matter, and I get tired of hearing how a few people work to panic other parents into a quick-fix solution of a label.

    My husband and I read almost everything that our kids read and listen to the same music. We may not like everything in the books or in the songs, but we’re not in the dark about our kids lives either. Most of the time we’re reading the same books because the books we all pick out are well written and interesting. It’s so much more fun to talk about favorite books with my children than to try and turn my house into a police state.

    BTW: LOVE the Uglies series. We’re all waiting impatiently for Specials.

  20. I’ve never read any of the Gossip Girl’s or the other ones mentioned.

    I did however read several Harlequin Romance’s, and lots of V.C. Andrews when in middle and high school, and I still waited till I was 19 (am 21 now) to loose my virginity, because I wanted to be w/ someone I loved. Also I never did drugs, happen to like my intelligence and don’t want to kill off any braincells. I might use them someday

    My parents only occaisonally checked what I was reading, and they never liked it (I’m convinced they’d have been upset at me for reading the Bible, even though they are Catholics) But they were overly oppresive when I was a teenager, but for some reason they waited untill then to try and stop me from reading stuff they didn’t like, which was everything.

  21. I hope some of you smart, articulate teen readers will put these thoughts into letters to the editor of the NYTimes Book Review. It would be nice if they paid a little more attention to the whole of YA literature. (Instead of their occasional one sentence summaries they call reviews. and then rants like Wolfe’s.)

    Rosemary Graham
    author of
    Thou Shalt Not Dump the Skater Dude and
    My Not-So-Terrible Time at the Hippie Hotel

  22. I am thirteen years old and I have read at least one of the books mentioned above.( I have read all of The Clique books)
    I don’t feel that it compromises my moral fiber. I think they’re just light reading. They help me pass the time between the real books I am waiting for *coughSpecials!cough* (although I am hooked on Lisi Harrison) I just think that I can relate to the Clique. They’re in 7th grade and going through the same things I am, even if they can afford a ton of brand name stuff.

    Bottom line : reading those books is not bad for you. They are my guilty pleasure.

  23. i dont know about guilty pleasure but i like them! but some books that my parent WANT me to read are really wierd! like the diary of ann frank, that was a very…..interesting book.

  24. i read naomi wolfe’s review a few days ago b.c my mom showed it to me. she’s never really cared what i read & i think she trusted me to make the right decisions, and now suddenly shes being very overprotective of what books im exposed to and whether or not they’re appropriate. i think the review was too much of a long rant…like a lot of people have said in their replies, those books r just an easy way to pass time (and a bit of a guilty pleasure) but not exactly the most engaging story. i just read the 1st GG a few days ago and it wasnt as good as i expected. the only reason i want to read the 2nd one now is to know what happened to the characters, and i have to say i expected the series to be better since all my friends talk about how amazing it is. i dont mind all the brand names, since im exposed to a lot of that in real life and most of my school is obsessed with it. if the 7th graders in the clique series have credit cards and prada bags i dont think thats unrealistic, it just means theyre really rich.
    as for corrupting the moral fiber…i dont especially want to be any of the people in the books, like i read them but i dont think the characters are too special. sure theyre rich and gorgeous but have u noticed how screwed up their lives r ?! teenagers can definately make decisions on their own and even tho ive become more conscious of status and brand names in the last few years, its def. not from the books. they havent influenced me at all except that after reading much much better books lately they seem disappointingly shallow.

    k now i’ll stop writing 🙂


  25. Haha. Well, at least she spelled your name right.

    Ugh, I never touched one of those A-List, Clique, or Gossip Girl Books. As a teenage girl, another book about how bad lives are because you’re irresponsible and idiotic do not a good read make for me. They may be deeper, but I judge books by their cover (yeah, I have heard the saying, but it’s wrong sometimes.) And seeing girls in limos with happiness and too much makeup, and the preppy titles = NO

    I hate realistic fiction too. On that sidebar list, I’d only read three of those books, and they were good, but I never would have read them on my own. Except for Uglies. I chose that one.

    — Sage

  26. Dude, I HATE Gossip Girl. Where I live, they’re the books that the “cool” girls read. As in liteature that’s complete, total, shallow, trash. I’m not saying they’re not entertaining–I picked one up a fewyears ago, when I was 14, and I was immediately entranced. However, with age, came taste. The books are well-written, in a shallow way, but they offer no Bigger Picture, and no real knowledge.

    I read what Sandy said, and she’s missing a key point. She’s not interested in GG; she’s also not that impressionable. Like I said before, the “cool” kids at my school love GG; they are, in fact, more impressionable. I think teenagers with brains can see the vapidness of the books, and the ones who just read GG, and the knockoffs, don’t appreciate real literature.

    I’m still waiting for America to lose it’s interest in rich, sporiled children who have so many problems. Blech.

  27. As a bookseller who works pretty exclusively in the kids/teen section of a B … of an anonymous major chain store, I find Naomi Wolf comments to be rather off the mark.

    It’s well known to anyone that’s browsed the teen/YA section of my store that we have more “girl” titles than “boy” titles, and most people attribute this to fact that girls read more. In my experience this is only partly true.

    Parents care about what’s inside the books their kids read, as they should. They’ll sometimes ask “Is it too violent?” when they are helping their sons pick out books, but rarely once they are past elementary school. They’ll often ask “Does it have…you know…” or some variation thereof when overseeing their daughter’s choices, and they ask this more and more often as their daughter grows older. When I suggest an adult novel for a teen boy, they’ll ask “what’s it about?” When I suggest one for a teen girl they’ll ask “is it appropriate?”

    From what I can tell, Gossip Girls, the Clique series, etc, are just teen versions of adult bestselling titles like Shopaholic and Bergadorf Blondes. IMHO, the fact that such books are being marketed exclusively to teen girls has a lot more to do with parents being overprotective than parents not “giving a second glance” to what their kids are reading.

    GG and the A-List aren’t exactly my favorite series that we sell, but I don’t think the fact that they are fluff is the Worst Thing in the World. A lot of what’s on the adult bestseller lists are fluff. As long as that’s not all teens are reading, who cares? It’s my job to know what’s selling the best in my corner of the world and from I can tell, most teens have better taste than all the adults that keep devouring the Da Vinci Code.

    I also find this line of thought odd coming from Naomi Wolf (er, well, maybe not after all). I personally love the fact that so many teen novels for girls try to sneak in sex and desire under the parental “Is it appropriate?” radar and I like even more that so many authors (Holly Black, Libba Bray, etc.) write about desire as something girls experience rather than something they use to get other things that they want – like popularity. I don’t think more parental supervision would help in this regard, since in my experience their decisions seem to be more in line with pretending that teen girls don’t experience sexual desire than with helping their daughters make healthy choices.

  28. I personally at the time I read the GG loved it(I was like 12-13). I’m not exactly sure why but I did and I read just about all of them till their little petty problems got boring then I stopped. I also read the Clique series, there wasn’t really anything else to read when i read it but i liked it. I also read the A-list and god was that ever so boring after the first book. I think it would be really dumb to put warning labels on books, because that would be just another way to try to censor what teenagers are reading. Which would really suck because where is the fun in reading a censored book with absolutley nothing special about it. Also i’m fifteen right now and i live with my grandparents who don’t really understand things that well anymore with all this new technology. They would think i was reading some dirty adult book if there was a warning on the cover saying “some adult content”.

  29. When I wrote this post, I was like, “It’s really long and boring and has no picture to go with it. So no one’s going to respond.”

    Hah! Thanks for posting all these great comments! There are too many excellent points to respond to every one, but one thing Ambereyes said kind of sums it up:

    I hate them but I love them. They’re like mini Paris Hiltons. They’re, like, totally, cringe-making, but addicting.

    That’s something about reading that often gets forgotten: We take what we want (and need) from books. We change books to suit us as we read them. Like our relationships with people, we grow out of them, we grow into them, we make fun of them even when we like them, we get addicted to them but realize the next month that they’re kind of silly and overblown. We can hate them and love them at the same time.

    It’s a zillion times more complicated than Wolf is suggesting in her article, which is what makes it so infuriating.

    And two other things:
    Arielle’s right about censorship, and I’d like to add that if warning stickers were put on books, Uglies probably wouldn’t have one, and there would definitley be some teens who wouldn’t read it because of that.

    How much would that suck?

    Also, Mickle’s point about how books are bought differently for boys and girls is pretty interesting. Has anyone else noticed that?

  30. Yes, I’ve noticed! It drives me crazy. Every time I buy some crime book or adventure book they look at me like I’m a total freak. I’m sick of the idea that all teen girls read are lame romances. I have to see enough of that in real life, why would I want to read about it? Yeah, I can see why some people would want to read it, but someone tell people that all girls are not shallow clones, and also do not need to be “protected” from anything “inapropriate”. Funny, guys never have that problem…

  31. I work at a bookstore as well, and it’s true, I sell a LOT of those books. Mostly to the ‘cool’ girls in middle school, the ones I hated so much when I was a few years younger. 😀 They seem pretty popular, and you know, if they’re reading, at least they’re reading.

    Also, I had this friend-slash-aquaintence senior year in high school, who worked with me in the office, and she was just like those girls you think will never pick up a book to read of their own volition, a sweet girl but completely obsessed with cell phones and clothes and make-up. But she actually started reading the A-List books (spin-off of the GG series) and she loved ’em. It’s easy to get all high-and-mighty when you know you’re reading ‘real’ books (like that guy Scott Westerfeld’s stuff *wink*) but, as shallow as these are, they’re doing good in their own way.

    ..That wasn’t the point I was going to try to make in this comment. Hmph. Oh well.

  32. as a librarian-in-training, one of the things i’ve been learning/practicing to do is booktalk in a way that doesn’t delineate “boy” book and “girl” book, which is something i think people tend to do subconsciously.

    everyone has expressed the thoughts i have more eloquently than i can – thanks!

  33. I read Gossip Girl and The A-List..but I have also read many of the other book in her “Good” list such as Speak, Luna and of course Uglies and all of Scott’s other books. Just because I read GG doesn’t mean I want the high life and all of that other crap.. I just think the author writes very well and it’s something that holds my attention. My mother didn’t care what i was reading when I was living with her but she was happy that i was actually reading because she knoes my tastes, for I am willing to give anything a try… I like dramas and other things classic novels are good for me to but comeon.. just because I am 18 doesn’t mean that I am just reading GG and other books for the sex or anything.. storylines people.. might have brandnames all thoughout but who cares if teens are reading.. A-List has some words that would show up on the SAT for godsakes…

    If they put a parental advisory label on books I will not be happy for that already did that to music in the 80’s that’s what i had to fight with my mom about music not books seems parnets care more about the music anyways and if they see a book about like killing someon on the teens bed they will talk to them but I mean for teen novels give me a break just let them read. (Sorry if this makes no sense at all just writing it as it comes today.)

    And for the people on here who think that the ones who read GG and other book “Don’t appreciate real literature.” Guess what I do so.. I read Poe and Dickens and Austen and many others.. because my mother showed me those books so another comment about those fans off GG not knowing real literature will not make me happy.. I might be 18 and like all kinds of book but don’t try to group me.. I am not the white snotty person for the love of….I may have gone to a private school and what not but jezz I was so far from rich I am black and working for my own so there… I have nothing else to say because some people just don’t understand at all!!!

  34. Uh no I have never read any of those books…I enjoy books with a point

    And as my parents…their policy pretty much says as long as I read something they don’t care what it is

    This because my twin sister won’t read unless you tie her to a chair and force her to

  35. My parents wouldn’t read one of my books if I tied it to their face. Which would make it hard to read, so if I tied it a reasonable distance from their face and secured them in place, they wouldn’t read it.

    And I don’t know anyone so impressionable that reading a couple books would turn them into ruling bitch-goddesses. Though I do know some bitch-goddesses, but put assuringly thick books between me and them.

    Anyway, a good book showing the opposite end of a clique. The Beconers by . . . Ah, well it’ll be more fun to find it.

    And there are so many long posts, me eyes are tearing up from reading so much.

  36. Also, Mickle’s point about how books are bought differently for boys and girls is pretty interesting. Has anyone else noticed that?

    I’m going through a list of my top favorite books of all time, and finding that they are either lending towards boys (or, more importantly, the traits we attribute to males- thanks, sexism) or gender neutral. Here are my top three for example from the last ten or so years.
    For instance:
    1)The Giver(let’s start with the level of book most of us read in elementary/middle school. Sure, you can count all those animorphs books you read, but those weren’t exactly good fiction, just addicting): Male protagonist, but with fairly little action and tons more that had to deal with moral and societal questioning, and for this, I’d say it was neutral.
    2) Ender’s Game: Highly, highly male characteristic, but only in a superficial way. Hell, once you got past the game/fight scenes and the bullying in the early part, it really was about an unfortunate prodigy stuck in a war of adults in a fairly messed up society. Once again, male, but with neutral tendencies.
    3) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: Autobiography, male protagonist, but no action and more dramatic. I dare say the protagonist (being a real, and get this, fully dimensional person rather than an author’s vessel for morality and symbolism), carried a lot of (what we attribute as) female characteristics.

    eh, if i go into these books with any more detail, this comment will become way too long.

    My point is this: At least for me, I can’t stand books that are aimed towards females AND take place in a “realistic setting”. Why? Because the girls in these novels are generally one, maybe two dimensional and play more off of our stereotypes than what we’d really encounter in life.

    However, we really have to consider that the market of young adult females is MUCH larger than the market of young adult males. At least that’s what it appears to be to any normal non-publishing person (i.e., most of the people posting here), so I can recognize why there are *so* many outsider-insider-cliques-in-high-school-high-fashion books, because hell, isn’t there some point where every girl imagines themselves as being the heroes in those books? And that’s probably what makes them so popular, and so appealing.

    Should these books be censored, or perhaps with a warning lable on them? No, at least I don’t think so. I’d have hung myself long ago if my parents were leaning over my shoulder as to what I was reading. Great, great books would have been cut out because they had a (gasp) scene of sex in them, or arguing, or abuse, or racism, or cursing.

    “I’d like to add that if warning stickers were put on books, Uglies probably wouldn’t have one, and there would definitley be some teens who wouldn’t read it because of that.”

    Actually, Scott, I’d feel that Uglies, and the other books, *would* have censoring stickers on them. Not in the way you’re thinking maybe, but if you think back to the darker bit of censorism, hasn’t it always been about bringing down those who think differently, or question the majority of society? Uglies may be set in the future, but it does mirror our society quite a bit, and CAN BE interpreted as making a fair bit of criticism of the world we live in. It’s about teenagers rising up (trying, who knows if they’ll succeed) and questioning the adults around them. It essentially could inspire a reader to do the same.

    People have tried to ban the Giver, a Brave New World, and 1984 for their instances of sex and violence, but those were just tags under which to hide the fact that they were mostly trying to be banned for inspiring a questioning, and probably rebellious nature.

    Wow. Long comment. Addicting blog.

  37. that was a VERY long post, but i dont think it would have a sticker. and man, if people are worried about sex books, then they shouldn’t read the notebook. good book, but i didn’t like the ending.

  38. Well, I might have a bit of a different take on Wolfe than most of the other posters. I’m a 20-year-old poli sci major, and I’m writing my honours dissertation partly on women in young adult literature, so hopefully I’ll be able to be clear. 🙂

    I’m of two opinions about the Gossip Girls / etc novels. Some people have touched on Wolfe’s disconnection with adolescent girls – she underestimates their intelligence, and assigns motives to all which probably only apply to some. Wolfe does tend to be high-handed, although I think the animosity directed at her is probably unfair. What she clearly lacks in accessibility, she does make up for in interesting discourse on the place of women in the media. That’s not to say she’s right – there are some serious flaws in what she suggests – but she makes some very potent points about the type of entertainment people choose. What’s relevant isn’t that they do choose it (and I doubt that Wolfe would suggest removing that choice from parents or readers), but the underlying social and political structures which make it entertainment.

    I do think they can send the wrong message to young girls. It’s not really about shallowness or “aspirational” literature – people generally have to make those calls for themselves. But I don’t think Wolfe was advocating to ban these books (and I think her text supports that); what I think she meant is that books which advocate behaviour like that displayed in the Clique books – which pits girls against girls in battles aimed at social acceptability (mainly for men – look at the “slut” strains in each of the books mentioned specifically) – need to be discussed, rather than taken at face value. Wolfe assumes that parents should take her stance, but the basic social commentary about these books – that they exemplify social structures Wolfe disagrees with, and which in fact many other commentators disagree with as well – is sound.

    Well, that was long, and probably not particularly wanted from a passer-by, but I figured I’d get my two cents in. And, uh. Hi. I read Uglies and Pretties, and was looking them up in case I wanted to cite them in the future, which is how I got here.

  39. Silver,

    I get the “real literature” worry from parents all the time. I can sympathise with parents who are trying to get their kids to read something in addition to Goosebumps, but I start to get annoyed when I hear them tell their kids they don’t want them reading them anymore, period. As someone who read everything from The Babysitter’s Club to Tolkien as a kid, it’s really hard not to go into lecture mode myself with them.

    There’s a popular education book about getting kids to read (Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook) that makes the very good point that parents tend to expect their kids to read serious books that are heavy on theme and morality, but the books adults read for fun are often nothing like that – they tend to be very plot driven. Trelease quite convincingly argues that Harry Potter series is so successful in part because it began with a plot-driven book that parents were ok with.

    Cara Cara,

    I read tons of “boy” and “neutral” books when I was younger. My screen name is from Lloyd Alexander’s Westmark series and Ender’s Game has always been one of my favorites. My point was not about what kids/teens themselves like so much as it was about parents being more protective of girls than boys, especially when it comes to sex. So, making versions of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time* series for elementary school kids is A-ok, but having a female protaganist even kiss (just once – for the first time!) gets the book bumped up to “teen” (unless you are JK Rowling).

    *Ok, so maybe I’m bashing Wheel of Time too much. I’ll admit I tried reading it once and never finished, but I have a vague memory that I put it down because it exemplified why I got so annoyed with mainstream fantasy. Most especially the female characters being caricatures rather than real people.

  40. I really don’t know anyone who has read a book about drugs or sex or anything like that, and decided to try drugs or sex because of the book. Maybe it is true, but honestly it sounds like a load of poo.

    also that list of “good” books for teens, is totally whack.
    I’ve read some of those books and they talk about sex and whatnot. I.e. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging is totallya bout a 14 year old girl who is obbesed with make-up and a “sex-god” ( i

  41. Ah, I read the Clique series. It’s become a sort of guilty pleasure, I admit—for some strange reason, I find shallow 12-year-olds beating on each other to be extremely amusing.

    [To Liset] I have read Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging: the book is hilariously witty, and Georgia really improves as a person throughout the series—remember that in the beginning of Uglies, Tally was a slave to perfection.

  42. I’ve picked them up a few times, but the summaries always seem too stereotypically blonde for me to go any further. But I will say that even lookung at something that has a cover like that makes me immediately want to treat it as satire. That’s how I’ve read the Georgia Nicholson books.
    I usually talk with my mom about books I read, and pretty much anyone else who cares to listen (I’ve actually got a line of friends waiting to read my copy of Uglies).
    On a minorly related note, I love your anti-product placement, especially in So Yesterday – it’s highly amusing.

  43. Hmm, where to start? 😛

    First, the impressionable youth thing. Sandy said fairly early on: “Personally, I feel that teenagers aren’t given enough credit. We are capable of making up our own minds and holding true to our moral codes.” Exactly. While keeping in mind that there are plenty of kids out there who do need guidance, the fact that kids and teens really don’t get the credit for intelligence that they deserve has long been something that bothered me, even after I moved out of my parents’ house. Just reading the above comments of a few teens will give fair evidence that quite a few of us know what we’re doing.

    I finally bought “So Yesterday” this weekend and finished it in 24 hours (nice job, Scott) and I was wondering about the lack of brand name mentions. I wondered if maybe it caused copyright issues or some such, but I’ve also long debated this idea myself, and as far as “So Yesterday” is concerned, I think the little comments about “a certain computer company whose logo is a fruit” added something to the book that wouldn’t have been there if Hunter just said “Apple.”

    I never read “Gossip Girl” or the others for the same reason that many people did read them. The cover and the title was enough to turn me off. I guessed immediately what they were about, and I was mostly right. Having become increasingly aware of the importance placed on wealth, especially in the last four years, it becomes more and more infuriating to me when I see people who really think that looks and money are all there is to life. I’ve also experienced first hand what I like to call the middle school syndrome, i.e. meanness and being isolated by other kids. And in many cases, these problems carry beyond middle school. So, the short version is, no, I haven’t read any of them. 🙂 In spite of that, I have read the Georgia Nicholson books. When I read the first book in the series, I hated it and didn’t even bother to finish it, for the same reasons I turned down Gossip Girl et al. But a few months later I got the same book for a birthday present, and on the second reading, I found it extraordinarily funny. I’ve now read almost the entire series. So I suppose it’s a matter of how you choose to take the story. You can take it literally, or as a satire, like Sierra said.

    My parents never really talked to me about what I was reading, but I did experience the “real literature worry” that Mickle mentioned. My mom is an English teacher and always wanted me to read classics. As such, I never wanted to read classics.

    Warning labels- we’re really screwed if they start doing this with books too. Particularly in recent years, fear has been a strong motivator in many laws and regulations passed in the United States, and putting parental advisory labels on books would just be one more step down the fearful path. Often times the problems experienced by teens come from a lack of parental guidance. The last thing we need is to enforce yet another system that encourages parents to take the easy way out.

    As Cara Cara and Mickle mentioned, people often give you weird looks for buying certain books. I have frequently experienced this, and while annoying, I also get a little smug pleasure from it, because I’m not the one missing out. 😉

    And that’s it. Wonderful blog post, I’m only sad I didn’t find it until days after it was posted. Great discussion.

  44. I haven’t read any of the A-List or Gossip Girl books, but I have read a different book that was “created” by the author of Gossip Girl (she didn’t even write it). It was The It Girl. Usually, books have a character arc, or an obstacle for a character to overcome, or, I don’t know, a PLOT. This book didn’t have any of that. After three hours of reading I was half way into it, and nothing had happened. I was like, “Okay, so Jenny has big boobs. Guys like her. They had a party. Is there a point to this?” It was terrible, but in all honesty, I read it because I was bored and I wanted some pointless entertainment. It didn’t make me want to go out, have sex, buy a $2000 Prada bag and get drunk. People shouldn’t censor books. They shoud be happy teenagers are reading. Sure, they might be reading mindless crap, but at least they’re reading.

  45. After awhile the relatively pointless Gossip Girl series can get tiring, so, while it used to be my guilty pleasure, it isn’t anymore. When I was reading those books though, I never felt compelled to follow the main characters example, and I’m pretty sure that most teens are on the same boat. Our generation is a smart one, I think, and we realize that Gossip Girls is a fictional series that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    And also, I really don’t think that books should get age-labels like movies. When people buy books, most skim through them, so they definitely have some grasp of what they’re getting into. Age-labels on books seems so foreign and wrong, and going with what another comment said: my parents trust me to make my own decisions, which includes my choices in books.

  46. I’ve never read any of those books, but I guess if people are reading, that’s definitely better than not reading. And if some idiot girl is going to go out and have sex and drink and do drugs, I don’t think that any book or movie or anything will make her do that or not do it.
    My mom tries to not let me read what I want, watch what I want on TV, etc (I’m fifteen), but she hasn’t succeeded since I was like ten. She thinks that if I never read a book with anything about sex in it or anything, then I’d actually be her good daughter, but, really, does she not realize what goes on in high schools anyway?? I wouldn’t get anything out of those books that doesn’t happen in real life.

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