last night, my young adult literature class engaged in a very interesting debate on popular literature for young’ns. basically, there’s an argument that liberries shouldn’t include pop culture books in their collections, like the illustrious (and racy!) gossip girl series. some liberrians (most likely those who own tweed suits and horn-rimmed specs and loud SHHHHHing voices) dub books like these as “literary twinkies”… soft, gooey, and in possession of no substance whatsoever.
obvi, plenty o’ liberrians do NOT agree with this argument, myself included. and yes, i’ll rely on the patented “as long as they’re reading” theory. honestly, i grew up reading some seriously #$%^ty things… AND I LOVED THEM. and the love of those books helped me cultivate my love of readin’… there is no way i would be the lady i am today without the help of the baby sitters club super specials (the cruise ship one, esp! although the cali one was also fab). who are we (as liberrians or parents or just plain peeps) to judge what others should and shouldn’t read (within reason), just because they are kids?
on a less liberry-centered note, i was a loyal follower of gossip girl on the CW for years (til the show became soooo ridic that i had to quit it), but i’d never read a gossip girl book until last week. and, twinkie or not, this book was GREAT FUN (and not nearly as skanky as everyone says)! and speaking of great fun, let me introduce you to something else equally light and airy and equally amazing:
Godbersen, A. The luxe. New York: HarperCollins.
OMG, everyone—it’s Gossip Girl, circa 1899! The Luxe tells the story of Elizabeth and Diana Holland, two sisters who reign at the pinnacle of New York society just before the turn of the 20th century. However, the fortunes of the Holland family have taken a turn for the worse, and in order to save the family name and score some cash, Elizabeth is pushed into a loveless engagement with notorious and scrumptious cad Henry Schoonmaker. Of course, Elizabeth carries a torch for another (family carriage driver Will), and Henry entertains the affections of many other admirers, including Elizabeth’s conniving BFF Penelope Hayes, and the precocious and darkly beautiful Diana, so clearly much drama is on the docket.
The Luxe’s similarities to Gossip Girl are obvious—not only are they both produced by Alloy Entertainment, but they both take readers on delicious thrill rides through the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite. However, The Luxe is not merely the same old plot dressed in flouncy finery—it’s also an entertainingly soapy and fun novel, punctuated with interesting period detail. Each chapter begins with an account from the Manhattan society pages, a tip from 19th century etiquette, or a message exchanged between two characters, which simultaneously propel the plot and to provide historical context. I enjoyed Godbersen’s storytelling hook of opening the story with Elizabeth’s funeral, and then rewinding the plot by several weeks to explain the events that led up to her death. Even though the big reveal is telegraphed from the very beginning, Godbersen’s plot was nevertheless complex and detailed enough to entertain me. Most importantly, I found all of the main characters to be well-constructed and multi-dimensional, and even the calculating Penelope earned my sympathy at times—especially when, upon finding out about Elizabeth’s engagement to Henry Schoonmaker, she voms in a flower pot! Talk about a faux pas.