Gossip Girl: The Carlyles created by Cecily von Ziegesar and written by Annabelle Vestry | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)
I'll be honest here, guys. I am complete and utter Gossip Girl trash and always will be, but it took me years to actually pick up this spinoff and give it a go. The Carlyles came out not too long after the television adaption of the original series was running and at the time, I just wasn't feeling the idea of it. Gossip Girl already had a killer spinoff in Jenny's adventures at boarding school called The It-Girl and I saw no real point in introducing a batch of new characters.
So for years, I procrastinated reading this series. And by chance, a couple of weeks ago while thrifting, I found all four of The Carlyles books in perfect condition and for a wicked $3. How could I pass that up? Short answer: I couldn't. At least, I found myself giving this next generation a chance and while it doesn't quite live up to the original series, I was pleasantly surprised.
Although Cecily wasn't the author of this spinoff, Annabelle Vestry provides the same snarky voice to Gossip Girl and the world of Manhattans elite perfectly. Just as the original series, it's cringe worthy and has just the right amount of teen angst that it feels undeniably teenager. If you didn't notice that this spinoff wasn't written by Cecily, you honestly wouldn't be able to tell -- she has a very similar vibe in her writing and it's all in good fun. Vestry captures the scandal and intrigue and fashionable adventures we came to know in the original series and builds onto it perfectly without interrupting what we already knew.
This first installment begins with the arrival of The Carlyle triplets who've just moved into the city after the death of their Grandma, a very famous socialite in the NYC scene. Straight from Nantucket, each sibling is vastly different and yet endearing in their own ways. Owen is set to be the next Nate Archibald: an attractive teenage boy who is pining after a summer romance with a mysterious girl he met named Kat. Avery is similar to Jenny in terms of her goals, even though she is older than our beloved Jenny Humphrey. She longs to make her mark on the social scene in the city, to be Queen of Constance, and is incredibly grateful to finally be living there. And then, there's Baby -- who, yes, is the baby of the family.
Baby is not pleased with the move to New York City. She wants nothing more than to be back in Nantucket with her stoner boyfriend, Tom, and has the tendency to be a bit dramatic. Out of the triplets, she seems to cause the biggest stir as she tries to get kicked out of school in an effort to go back to her original home. Eventually, though, she sees something in the city and finds herself crushing on someone she'd never thought would be her type.
Their arrival brings forth the resurrection of Gossip Girl, perhaps by someone else entirely, and absolutely shakes up the scene. With their arrival comes new friendships, new romances, and of course new enemies.
Although the triplets are different, their relationship is actually kind of sweet in a way. I definitely enjoyed seeing their differences as well as their obvious affection for one another. They're very real in terms of sibling relationships and although at times they make you cringe, it's pretty easy to get attached to them.
Jack Laurent is the current Queen B at Constance. Beautiful, smart, rich, the perfect boyfriend (J.P) and the potential to be a ballet star -- Jack seems to have it all, until The Carlyles come along and her father cuts her off financially. In such a short amount of time, Jack's social downfall seems inevitable and her claws come out to fight when her status is threatened in more ways than one. What's a girl to do when some nobody comes along and tries too hard to steal her spotlight? And is that her boyfriends eyes wandering? Ugh, tough luck J.
Some of the most entertaining scenes are the ones where Jack and Avery struggle for power and all that jazz. I'm rather fond of their first disastrous interaction. And of course, the moment when Avery catches wind of Jack's, ahem, money problems. It's classic Gossip Girl cat fights and blackmail that leave us wondering how long this so-called-social-war will stand and if the two will become genuine friends by series end.
Jack and Avery have a similar feel to the frenemies situation Blair and Serena had, and their battles are the best part of The Carlyles. Avery is just too much at times, and Jack is just the right amount of bitchy -- it makes for a delicious read and maintains the original sparkle of Gossip Girl.
And then there's the love triangles.
Ah, yes. It wouldn't be GG without a love triangle or two. In the Carlyles case, the biggest love triangle is between Owen, his summer fling Kat (better known as Kelsey, Rhys' girlfriend) and his new friend Rhys Sterling. Rhys is a total sweetheart and you can't help but to feel bad for him when it is revealed that Kat is Kelsey. Did that confuse you? It confused me while typing it, let's try that again: Owen lost his virginity to a girl he thought was named Kat during the summer. Kat is actually the initials of Kelsey's full name and Kelsey has been together with Rhys for years.
Still confused? Whatever, I suck at this. Moral of the story is that it's a lackluster and predictable reveal but still serves for an entertaining plot point. But how long can Owen and Kelsey keep their fling a secret? And are they really in love with one another or is it just lust? What does this mean for Owen and Rhys budding bromance? Guess you'll have to find out on your own...
Aside from the lead characters, the Gossip Girl entries and overall fabulous satire we've come to love, there are quite a few minor characters in the mix. In particular, there's a girl named Sydney who is described as edgy and has the potential to be the same level of badass and entertaining that Vanessa was in the original series.
Overall, The Carlyles was entertaining in ways that only Gossip Girl is. It made me want to sip cosmos and shop in the city with my dear friends. It has all the same juicy and light bits that make Gossip Girl so beloved. It's not serious, it's not special and is thoroughly predictable when it comes to teen drama but what else can you expect? I still enjoyed reading it; far more than I thought I would and I think that fans of the original series will enjoy it if they give it a chance. I'm certainly glad I did and cannot wait to wrap up this all-too-brief spinoff. It was a lovely throwback to my teens and such a blast to read.
You know you love me!