I’ll be the first to admit that I love scandalous books. I love teen/YA drama in fantastical, completely outlandish settings – a la Gossip Girl; Young, Loaded and Fabulous and, most recently, Beautiful Idols. I may have absolutely zero interest in following the lives of actual, ostentatious celebrities
read: I respect the fact that they are fantastic business people but I literally do not give a flying bus stop about the Kardashians but hand me any book about rich kids with rich kid problems, or working/middle class kids thrown into a world filled with rich kid problems and I am sold. I honestly can’t put my finger on what it is about teen drama novels, but I guess it’s that they are so in the valley of pink, fluffy, unrealistic lifestyles that they become endearing and almost believable. Maybe it’s that the characters live in a world that so many people endeavour to be part of, but I think the most appealing aspect is that reading about them in fiction is so much easier than seeing a real-life person struggle with the existence and the tribulations of fame – because no matter what anyone says, fame has a price. Notwithstanding that, the appeal also rests in the fact that most of the characters in these books harbor some kind of flaw, which is so unlike the celebrity ideal that the world is forced to swallow on a daily basis. I have a lot of Feelings on celebrity culture which will turn into a thinkpiece someday soon-ish. I love glamorous teen drama YA so much that I wanted to do a roll-call of all the books and series of that calibre that I have read over the years. ‘Chick-lit’ gets so much stick, mostly for being ‘for women’ and like, we know our books about shoes and handbags aren’t as important or necessary as all the books about beer and sports and hammers, but we still like them, right?!
Real talk though, no matter what anyone says about ‘chick-lit’, it has an audience and serves a purpose. I love contemporaries dealing with issues and speculative fiction and fantasy as much as the next YA reader, but sometimes I just want to escape. It’s not a guilty pleasure, and it’s no better or worse than any other book out there. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. Often these types of YA are perfect for lazy summer days and I was no stranger to picking up a few to bring with me on holiday when I was younger
I also read a lot of James Patterson and John Grisham on holiday as a child because they would often get left behind in hotels and apartment complexes. I wasn’t particularly picky when it got to day four of my holiday and I’d run out of reading material. They’re also perfect for rainy winter days, and days when you’re sad and need to read something so utterly outlandish that you forget your own problems for a while. They’re kind of perfect all-round.
Anywho. Without further ado, here’s my list in no particular order
which is also not particularly exhaustive, and has more than 5. I lied in the title. Oh well. Ahem:
My first dip into teen drama was definitely Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series. I think I jumped into that world when I was ten or eleven and they’re still some of my favourite fluffy teen novels to reread today
(eleven or twelve years later). Most of the appeal is in Mia’s awkward, ungainly approach to princess lessons and her slow adaptation to princess life in general, but the premise is so out there that it becomes utterly believable.
The Gossip Girl series by Cecily von Ziegesar are the epitome of rich kid problems and are probably one of the most popular YA teen drama novel series I can think of (and that’s not even including the success of the TV series). Blair, Serena, Chuck, Nate, Dan and Jenny are all flawed, spoiled and entitled in their own ways which makes their outlandish, high-end lifestyles
(or their desires to live high-end lifestyles) almost believable even to this 22-year-old who has never even seen a pair of Manolo Blahniks in real life, much less agonised over what colour to try on and ultimately purchase. Ditto for the subsequent It Girl spin-off series which sees Jenny at boarding school – because who doesn’t love all the drama of Gossip Girl-style, high-end high school in a boarding school setting?!
Kate Kingsley took care of the UK side of rich-teen books with the Young, Loaded and Fabulous series, following Alice and Tally on their scandalous trials and tribulations as they navigate boarding school, boys and enemies. London boarding school and rich posh English boys, what more could one possibly want?!
My most recent acquisition was Unrivalled, a Beautiful Idols novel by Alyson Noel. This one focuses on Madison, Layla, Tommy and Aster as they try make it big in Hollywood. I know that everyone who goes to Hollywood is supposed to have a dream according to that one movie, but Unrivalled looks at the varying degrees of success of the four characters and how a desire to succeed may work for you, but may result in cataclysmic damage to relationships and the lives of everyone around you. This is a new book and is available in all good bookshops – it’s a perfect summer read!
Moving on from YA a teeny bit but still in the same vein, I have to give shoutouts to The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger, and How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls by Zoey Deane
which I cannot believe I have never read before but am flying through. Both look at two clumsy, unassuming girls thrust into the world of the rich, the demanding and the high-class where fitting in is imperative and surviving isn’t optional.
What about you guys? What are your favourites? What would you recommend and what would you avoid like the plague? Let me know in the comments!
Xoxo, Goss- no, I’m not even gonna.