Gossip Girl author Cecily von Ziegesar celebrates her birthday on June 27. Happy birthday, Cecily! Von Ziegesar was born in New York City, the setting of most of her books, in 1970. Her upper class upbringing featured private schooling, not unlike the backdrop of Gossip Girl and its related series. She is the half-sister of writer Peter von Ziegesar, who wrote about the family in his 2014 memoir The Looking Glass Brother.
Von Ziegesar’s original and best known series, Gossip Girl, debuted in 2002 and spanned twelve books. In 2005, her It Girl series was launched as a spinoff featuring popular Gossip Girl character Jenny Humphrey. A second spinoff, Gossip Girl: The Carlyles appeared in 2008 and focused on a new cast of characters. She has released one book for adults. Cobble Hill features adults living in an upscale Brooklyn neighborhood and was released in 2020.
The original Gossip Girl series has been the target of challenges due to its content. Surprisingly, despite the books’ popularity, controversy did not become prevalent until its television adaptation debuted in 2007, five years after the first book was released. The following year, the Leesburg (FL) Public Library received a challenge due to the series’ sexual content, depictions of drugs, and general adult themes. Other complaints have also referenced the books’ usage of profanity. The series as a whole ranked 22nd on ALA’s list of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books of 2000-2009.
Like their television counterpart, the Gossip Girl books depict wealthy high school students who engage in casual sex, experiment with drugs and underage drinking, and find themselves involved in no shortage of scandals. While the show took considerable freedom with its plot and character development, the core theme of beautiful teens behaving badly remained true to the books. A reboot of the series, featuring all new characters separate from those in the books and a more diverse cast, will debut on HBO Max in July.
Gossip Girl and its spinoffs were published during a time when YA fiction – especially series – was flourishing and solidly coming into its own as a go-to form of entertainment for teens. Von Ziegesar’s contributions to the genre are many, and countless early 2000’s teenagers eagerly awaited her new releases to keep up with the shenanigans of Serena van der Woodsen, Blair Waldorf, Nate Archibald, and their friends. We wish her a happy birthday!
Gretchen Kaser Corsillo is the Director of Rutherford (NJ) Public Library and has worked in public libraries in a variety of capacities since 2003. In 2013, she received her Master’s of Library & Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh, and she also holds a B.A. in Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Political Science. Prior to working as a professional librarian, she worked in the marketing and legal fields; the latter, combined with her interest in writing, has made her a strong advocate for intellectual freedom.