Thursday, July 28, 2005


Authors for today's "sophisticated" teens.
The latest novel by Cecily von Ziegesar opens something like this:

Blair and Nate are naked in bed, smoking cigarettes and not caring that the open blinds in Nate's luxurious New York City town house expose them to neighborhood Peeping Toms. The doorbell rings. Nate's pothead friends have popped by, and soon the guys are doing bong hits on the roof.

Von Ziegesar's "Nobody Does It Better," the seventh installment in her best-selling "Gossip Girl" series, seems like it should share shelf space with Jackie Collins and Danielle Steel. But her books can be found in the young-adult section, aimed at tweens and teens who are scooping up the often-racy adventures of von Ziegesar's privileged, Prada-clad high schoolers.


Yet the author, who is 35 and who has two small children of her own, says few mothers have complained about her books' naughtiness.

"They say, 'I'm just thrilled that my daughter is reading,' " she says. "I try not to think about my readers as 14-year-old girls. I don't want to write down to them. I just want them to have something fun to read."

Steamy stories about fabulously wealthy, designer-obsessed teens are a huge hit with adolescent readers. The "Gossip Girl" books have sold 2.2 million copies in the United States alone, and the last three editions debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times' children's best-seller list. Similar series about the young, rich and beautiful -- "The A-List," "The Clique," "The Au Pairs" -- have achieved blockbuster status too.

In many of today's teen novels, boys and girls are blase about sleeping together. Drugs are part of the social scene, and kids party all night and still get into Ivy League universities. And, of course, they're dressed in La Perla lingerie and Manolo Blahnik mules.

All the drinking, drugging and sex bother some critics, who say these books are too lurid, especially when readers can be as young as 9. In France, the "Gossip Girl" series is classified as adult fiction, because no children's publisher there would pick up the rights.

The authors of these books defend their work, saying that today's teens are too sophisticated to respond to a puritanical, preachy tone.


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