Blair Waldorf, the queen of the New York social scene, just wants to have the perfect birthday party. But her long-time boyfriend Nate Archibald is acting distant, playboy Chuck Bass is flirting relentlessly, and her ex-best-friend Serena van der Woodsen has shown up with the brooding Dan Humphrey after a year away at boarding school. Meanwhile, Vanessa Abrams, the artsy social outcast, tries to maintain her sanity as a waitress at the party when she spies her best friend and secret crush, Dan, following Serena around like a lovesick puppy. This drama-filled evening kicks off a school year full of break-ups and make-ups, friends made and friends lost, and parties, promises, and payback for the elite boys and girls of the Upper East Side and those who long to be them.
This graphic adaptation of Cecily von Ziegesar’s popular Gossip Girl series comes to us from Yen Press and creator HyeKyung Baek. The manga style perfectly suits the over-the-top drama of these New York high school students’ lives. The artist captures the glamour of the students and brings the city to life, using the visual medium to showcase the high-end fashion and lifestyles that were merely described in the novels. While most of the art is done in an exaggerated realistic manner, these panels are also interspersed with chibi moments and other humorous asides that add a level of whimsy and irony to the story. The artist, in a nod to the reader, acknowledges that yes, this whole story is ridiculous, but it’s also a great deal of fun. It may be a bit of an escapist fantasy in this sense, but the relationships between the characters still ring true for the target teen readers.
But are we reaching Gossip Girl fatigue? The first novel came out nearly 10 years ago, followed by 16 more sequels and spin-offs, the television series is in its fifth season, and a parody novel, Gossip Girl: Psycho Killer, was released in October. The graphic novel series, while using the same universe and similar plot elements, is not a strict adaptation of the books or the show — it really does stand on its own. There may not be a cross-over audience, but even if a reader hasn’t read the original series or seen the TV show, this is still a fun graphic novel series. Sex, drugs, and underage drinking are present, as well as some scantily clad characters (notably on the back cover of volume 1). Yen Press labels it as an Older Teen title, a designation it reserves for books that parents or guardians may find inappropriate for readers under the age of 16. At only three volumes for the whole series, this would be a great addition to a collection with readers interested in realistic drama stories.