I Will Always Love You (GG #12) created by Cecily von Ziegesar | Rating: ★★★★★
They chose each other.
Just then, the dark sky lit up with fireworks. A cab sailing the street honked in celebration . In the night air, Nate thought he could hear Serena and Blair's laughter, though he knew that was impossible; they were too far away by now.
But as we know, in this city anything is possible.
Flashback to 2008 or 2009: in a surprising move due to the popularity of the then-hit television series, Gossip Girl came back for one final look into our beloved teenagers lives as they explore adulthood and come home for the holidays during breaks in university. Much like the final books and spin-offs of the original series, it is penned a ghost writer and not Cecily herself.
I Will Always Love You, or as I like to call it: the pitiful (but still fun) attempt at drawing in fans of the television series and unnecessarily destroying the characteristics of the books, takes place over the course of four years and is told in the usual rotating narration and blog entries. We’re split up to focus ONLY on the four years of holidays our kids have as breaks from classes.
(I’m being a bit dramatic: the installment wasn’t horrible it just wasn’t Gossip Girl in the way longtime readers wanted it to be. There were some redeeming qualities to it, though, like the endgames. Which is why I've still given it a high review like the rest of the series.)
When we last saw our darlings, the following things happened:
Blair and Serena shared their goodbyes as Blair takes off to Yale (and her family moves to California) and Serena takes her place in Hollywood as a budding film star with her first role in Breakfast at Fred’s, a fictional modern day remake of Breakfast at Tiffany's. Serena has always been an It-Girl in the city, but can she be one in the films as well?
Nate made the uninspired decision to end their long standing love triangle by not choosing either girl and sailing the world instead of attending Yale. Oh, yeah, and breaking up with both girls via identical text messages. Because if there’s one thing that Nate Archibald consistently is, it’s that guy and we love him for it.
Dan and Vanessa were plotting to make their relationship survive long distance, because let’s face it–they’re meant for each other. Chuck was off to military school and Jenny moved on to Waverly Academy to finish her high school career and take her rightful throne as an It-Girl in her spin-off novels.
And to break it down simply for you, in simple terms in their verified teen angst and gossip: life goes on. Gossip Girl moved on to The Carlyles and a new batch of characters, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t keeping her eyes wide open for her original sources of fun.
Through the course of those four years in college, Blair and Serena and Nate get back to their old tricks and triangles. I mean… constantly, that’s the biggest theme of the book. Patterns. Nairena getting up to their old games. You can take the Upper East Sider out of the Upper East Side… but you can’t take the Upper East Side out completely.
Nate cannot make up his mind, Blair and Serena flip flop from being besties to enemies, and in the meantime other romances strike up, including a pitiful attempt at bringing the shows core romances to life.
That’s right, readers: Dan and Serena 2.0 for starters. That’s the first moment our characters get all warped up and screwed with. After Vanessa (who now has long hair, because God forbid we keep her bald!) and Dan split due to an infidelity, Dan and Serena meet up once more by chance and soon find themselves rekindling whatever weak and slightly creepy romance they had in the start of the book series.
If you think about it, it makes total sense.
And then, double surprise, Chuck Bass returns a new and improved man. Admittedly, even though I loath the romance of Chuck and Blair on the television show, Chuck’s improvements in the books are much more gentle and realistic. When he and Blair get together this time around, I thought the two were pretty sweet and lovely and a nice change from Blair/Nate. I was even rooting for them in this novel in some ways.
However, we all know one thing for certain: out of all the characters and romances, Blair and Serena will always love Nate more than anyone else. At least, in their circle of friends. That’s just the way it goes and it is mostly to do with the fact that their little trio has always been so, so close.
Blair also has another brief romance in the form of one of her classmates from Yale. This doesn’t work out because in spite of Blair actually liking him, there’s no preventing the way she is drawn to Nate and New York like a magnet. Everyone else seems to be a consolation prize for her and Serena when it comes to their love for Nate, and vice versa.
Jenny returns to the city here and there after/during high school. We do have a brief appearance by another Waverly classmate of hers (Tinsley?) and it’s not a continuation to that series but still nice to see nonetheless. I think her transition from the original series to now is the most organic but that could be because when Gossip Girl ended, we still had Jenny Humphrey and her friends.
In another uninspired and lackluster move, they put Jenny with Nate again and Nate has know bumped up his virginity taking skills to a three out of four. They also give Nate and Chuck a bromance not unlike the shows. It kind of made no sense but it wasn’t a bad turn. Nate and Chuck both desperately need a best friend and I always wanted the guys to form a group–Chuck, Nate, Dan and Aaron.
So at least we went halfsies on that, I guess?
Each character has grown in a lot of ways from the original run but the more things change, the more they stay the same. Try as the series might, it didn’t take the path we expected even as they tried to cram the shows themes with the books.
In the end, the books won out. Which sent me into a bit of a happy dance. My favorite part to the series and its years of plots is that this one really did end the way I hoped it would.
Although I love all the romantic relationships from the books, it was good to see that none of them were endgame. I liked that we were left with possibilities.
That everyone parted as friends and that they decided to live their lives, their twenties, as they came. I liked that Jenny decides to take her life on a different path and that things were moving to fast with Nate, I liked the hint that she’d ended up with Blair’s little brother at some point. I liked that Blair and Serena walked away from Nate, and Dan and Chuck, and chose themselves and their friendships over romance.
I liked that Dan and Vanessa seemed to make up in some ways.
There were a lot of flaws with I Will Always Love You, but the ending was beautiful and clear and perhaps one of the series finest moments. I hate to admit it, but it was a solid ending that made up for an otherwise shitty turn of events.