Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gossip Girls and Ethical Dilemmas

I despise the Gossip Girls series. When we read the first one in my Young Adult novels class last spring, few other works inspired such heated controversy. (Well, my friend, Jill, had quite the rant on Ella Enchanted, but there you go....) I was right there in the middle of the fray, expounding on how the book, appalling values aside, exemplified everything that's wrong with publishing today.

I could vividly visualize a statistical analyzer adding up columns and figures, creating a "formula" for writing best-selling teen series. These books, I harrumphed, are not about good story-telling, they're about titillation and sensationalism--the Harold Robbins (or National Enquirer) of the teen set.

"I will never," I declared, "buy these books for my library." When others took me to task, asking how I would defend such a choice logically, I retorted I could simply claim better uses for limited funds. Simple. Utterly defensible.

Who knew about book donations?

So now I have two of the books sitting in my "to be processed pile," the product of a generous parent. They sit there, mocking me. Until three classes of 7th graders came in this week to find books for a required reading assignment, I had checked out all of six books since school started. I know these would FLY off the shelves, and one part of me says, 'Hey, if kids are reading, can it be a bad thing?"

But I'm not one of those people who thinks any reading is good reading. There are textual equivalents to Entertainment Tonight and Jerry Springer, and I'd rather have my students watch a quality program on TV than read a piece of trash.

Nor am I a series book snob. I've read--and continue to read and enjoy--many a series. Those past librarians who sneered at Nancy Drew and the like did their patrons a real disservice. Librarian are not the arbiters of taste and culture.

And yet....these books offend me on so many levels. If I were a public librarian, this would be a no-brainer. They'd go on the shelves, because who am I to decide what the public can or cannot read? As a school librarian, however, I have a different set of responsibilities. Maybe it's the ex-English teacher in me, but there are plenty of equally entertaining, less hollow books out there to read. If they want Gossip Girls, go to the public library.

So they sit. And mock.

One of these days, I'll have to decide.


  1. I'm with you on this one! I finally caved in to pressure from students and bought a book similar to Gossip Girls (maybe one from the It Girl series). Much to my delight the book was stolen on the first day I put it out. Now some books, like Go Ask Alice which often grows legs and runs away, I will replace. This one ... not so sure!

  2. grin--I knew you'd be a kindred spirit. I like that--stolen. Half my usable books go walking, anyway. I can just leave it "accidentally" on top of a bookshelf... : )

  3. Get them "Captain Underpants" least they'll get a laugh out of it.