Cecily von Ziegesar (1970–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights
Born 1970, in New York, NY; Education: Attended Colby College and University of Arizona.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Warner Books, 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
Novelist. 17th Street Productions, New York, NY, former editor.
"GOSSIP GIRLS" SERIES
Gossip Girl, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
You Know You Love Me, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
All I Want Is Everything, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2003.
Because I'm Worth It, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2003.
You're the One That I Want, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2004.
I Like It like That, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2004.
Nobody Does It Better, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.
Television rights to the "Gossip Girl" series were purchased by Warner Bros.
Cecily von Ziegesar is the author of the "Gossip Girl" books, a series about a group of rich Manhattan teenagers and their adventures with sex, drugs, and alcohol. The books have been criticized as nothing more than the written equivalent of a soap opera, but fans believe von Ziegesar speaks honestly about contemporary teen life. As a critic for Publishers Weekly described the series, "though anyone hoping for character depth or emotional truth should look elsewhere, readers who have always wished Danielle Steel and Judith Krantz would write about teenagers are in for a superficial, nasty, guilty pleasure."
The series idea came about while von Ziegesar was working as an editor for 17th Street Productions, a book packager in New York City. She wrote the proposal and sent it in to the publishing house of Little, Brown. She "borrowed the setting from her life," as Ginia Bellafante noted in the New York Times. Von Ziegesar herself comes from a wealthy background and swears the events found in her novels are based on real life. She told Rachel Cooke in the London Observer: "I was just describing a world that I knew. At high school, one of my best friends would fly Concorde to Paris to get fitted by Yves Saint Laurent." Amelia Hill in the London Observer explained what the series' characters are all about: "Von Ziegesar's hard-drinking, bulimic and love-starved teenagers smoke cannabis in Central Park, vomit on monogrammed scarves after a night drinking in a plush hotel, and plot complex sexual escapades at their parents' penthouses." "The whole idea came out of my experience of growing up in New York," von Ziegesar told Lauren Mechling in the London Daily Telegraph. Gillian Engberg in Booklist found the "Gossip Girl" books to be a "campy, scandal-hungry glimpse into the lives of privileged teens in Manhattan's Upper East Side." Hill summed up: "It is a world where overprivileged youngsters take drugs, have sex—often with each others' boyfriends—get raped and drink alcohol until they pass out."
The circle of Gossip Girl friends attend the Spenford School, an exclusive New York private academy. They live on the Upper East Side and have all the money they can spend. While they spend their days drinking, taking drugs, and exploring their sexuality, their parents are too busy with their own lives to pay any attention to their children's activities. Gossip Girl is the anonymous webmistress of the Web site Gossipgirl.net, a place where the scandalous goings-on of these teenagers are wryly chronicled. At the center of the group are Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf, rivals for the attention and affection of the boys in their circle, and for popularity at school.
In the first book of the series, Gossip Girl, Serena and Blair are old friends from childhood who have now grown up and find themselves rivals. Serena has been away at boarding school. When she is booted out and returns home, she finds that her friendship with Blair is in trouble. Blair has become the center of their circle of friends, a position Serena once held, and she has no intention of giving it up. Meanwhile, Blair's boyfriend Nate is attracted to Serena, and eventually he sleeps with her. "Von Ziegesar's approach is fresh, although mean and petty comments dominate these teens' world," Gail Richmond wrote in the School Library Journal. "Deliciously catty and immediately engrossing," according to a contributor to Kirkus Reviews, Gossip Girl is a novel that "girls should find … spicy, entertaining, and their own trashy fun."
You Know You Love Me finds Blair's rich mother marrying her chunky, tacky, high-society boyfriend, Cyrus Rose, after a two-month courtship, and asking Blair and Serena to be her bridesmaids. Meanwhile, Blair's boyfriend Nate is avoiding her to secretly see Jenny, some-
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thing that disturbs Blair so much that she cannot get through her college interview. Meanwhile, Serena's school film project wins her a trip to the Cannes film festival. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called You Know You Love Me "a highly enjoyable speedboat of a read, zipping along at lightning speed," while School Library Journal critic Nicole M. Marcuccilli dubbed the book "a great read for those who like romance and drama related in a sassy manner."
Von Ziesesar continues the "Gossip Girl" series with All I Want Is Everything, in which Blair is trying to find a new boyfriend to replace the cheating Nate, while her mother and new stepfather are planning to have a child of their own. Serena has run off to the Caribbean with her rock star boyfriend; when she gets bored with the topless sunbathing, as well as the boyfriend, shereturns home in search of more interesting romantic partners. Everything winds up at a New Year's Eve party. "Everyone's lives seem to be getting more complicated," according to Sally M. Tibbetts in Kliatt, "but don't count on these ladies becoming any deeper or more sensitive."
The fourth installment of the series, Because I'm Worth It, revolves around Fashion Week, an event Blair and Serena are anxiously awaiting. The two girls are serving as counselors for freshmen, Nate has been arrested on marijuana charges, and everyone is learning whether they have been accepted at the Ivy League college of their choice. Catherine Ensley in the School Library Journal described the book as peopled by "beautiful, rich kids whose lives are the stuff of fantasy, and whose achievements seem effortless." Hilary Williamson of the BookLoons.com found that Because I'm Worth It "goes down as easily as one of the many glasses of bubbly imbibed inside it." "This quick tale is great for mindless vacation reading," Amy Coffin stated for BookHaven.net.
You're the One That I Want finds the "Gossip Girl" regulars looking forward to college. Blair has her mind set on Yale, Serena is still undecided, and Vanessa has been accepted at the New York University film school. In addition to all the academic choices, they also have romantic worries as well. Joanna Solomon in Kliatt concluded that "the series is as addictive as junk food."
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I Like It like That tells of the spring break doings of the Gossip Girl crowd. Blair moves in temporarily with Serena to get away from her now-pregnant mother and the hectic preparations for the new baby. Dan interns at a literary magazine, while Nate fights a drug addiction. "As each subplot unfolds," Olivia Durant wrote in Kliatt, "the lives of these jet-setting teens are revealed to be full of angst and alcohol."
While the "Gossip Girl" books have captured fans, the series still has its detractors. Writing in the Palm Beach Post, Paul Lomartire admitted: "This series of short novels for high school girls carries a simple strategy that works. It's an ongoing … teen soap opera spun with plenty of sex, promised sex, regrettable sex and missing sex." Speaking of the series as a whole, Bellafante complained: "No one feels too much of anything in the 'Gossip Girl' books, and rarely does anyone feel very badly, at least for long." Bellafante noted, too, the overwhelming materialism of the characters and their constant references to shopping and designer brand names. "Though the covers of the books suggest salacious content," she explained, "shopping and spending ultimately evoke more passion among the characters than sex."
As von Ziegesar told Helena De Bertodano in the London Sunday Telegraph, "My books are really just fun, showing kids behaving and making mistakes in the way real people do. I'm obviously not saying, 'This is how you should act,' but teenagers do these things, so why not show it?" In an interview posted on the Time Warner Web site, von Ziegesar explained her secret to writing novels about today' teenagers: "I don't think I've changed that much since I was 17, so I don't find writing about teenagers all that hard."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, June 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Gossip Girl, p. 1709.
Bookseller, August 16, 2002, "Warning over Teen Launch," p. 34.
Daily Telegraph (London, England), October 17, 2002, Lauren Mechling, "A Nice Girl's Guide to Misbehaving."
Daily Variety, January 21, 2004, Michael Fleming, "WB Will Spread 'Gossip,'" p. 1.
Independent (London, England), August 25, 2002, James Morrison, "Protests at Sex and Drugs in Teen Publishing Sensation."
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, April, 2003, Pamela Osback, review of Gossip Girl, p. 608.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of Gossip Girl, p. 580; August 15, 2002, review of You Know You Love Me, p. 1238.
Kliatt, November, 2002, Sally M. Tibbetts, review of You Know You Love Me, p. 21; July, 2003, review of All I Want Is Everything, p. 27; September, 2004,m Olivia Durant, review of I Like It like That, p. 26; November, 2004, Joanna Solomon, review of You're the One That I Want, p. 21; March, 2004, Courtney Lewis, review of Because I'm Worth It, p. 22.
New York Times, August 17, 2003, Ginia Bellafante, "Poor Little Rich Girls, Throbbing to Shop," p. ST1.
Observer (London, England), August 25, 2002, Amelia Hill, "Sex and Drugs Tales to Tempt Teen Readers"; February 23, 2003, Rachel Cooke, "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum."
Palm Beach Post, October 24, 2004, Paul Lomartire, "Soap Operas for Teens: 'Gossip Girl' Entertains," p. 7J.
Publishers Weekly, January 21, 2002, review of Gossip Girl, p. 91; July 22, 2002, review of You Know You Love Me, p. 181; May 12, 2003, review of All I Want Is Everything, p. 69; November 10, 2003, review of Gossip Girl (audiobook), p. 23; November 17, 2003, review of Because I'm Worth It, p. 67; May 3, 2004, "The Latest Scoop," p. 194.
School Library Journal, June, 2002, Gail Richmond, review of Gossip Girl, p. 148; October, 2002, Nicole M. Marcuccilli, review of You Know You Love Me, p. 174; August, 2003, Elaine Baran Black, review of All I Want Is Everything, p. 168.
Sunday Telegraph (London, England), March 9, 2003, Helena De Bertodano, "Confessions of a Teen Fiction Queen."
Teen People, May 1, 2002, Jennifer Calonita Smith, review of Gossip Girl, p. 92; February, 2004, Catherine Ensley, review of Because I'm Worth It, p. 152.
Times (London, England), March 8, 2003, Carola Long, "Hot or What?," p. 19.
YM, July, 2002, Heather Klein, review of Gossip Girl, p. 32.
Bridge Online, http://www.bridgemagazine.org/ (January, 2003), Jake Davis, review of Gossip Girl.
Gossip Girl Web site, http://www.gossipgirl.net/ (December 20, 2003).
Time Warner Web site, http://www.twbookmark.com/ (May 8, 2005), interview with von Ziegesar.
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