A conversation with the satirical fashion bloggers about their new book
Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan are a new-media success story: They met as recappers on Television Without Pity, and now they blog about fashion full-time at their wickedly satirical site, Go Fug Yourself, and as correspondents for New York. But this summer, they're turning back to an old medium. On June 1, Heather and Jessica are publishing their debut young adult novel, Spoiled, which follows Molly Dix as she moves from her childhood home in Indiana (where Heather went to college) to Los Angeles (where Jessica grew up and the pair both live now) to live with her newly-discovered movie star father, Brick Berlin. With its witty dissection of celebrity culture and a story that focus as much on sisterhood as on teenage romance, Spoiled is both a nostalgic wink to readers who grew up on Judy Blume and the Sweet Valley High novels and a great entry point for girls just starting their exploration of YA stories. We spoke to Heather and Jessica about their favorite YA books when they were growing up, how writing a novel influenced their partnership, and why young adult novels rule the literary marketplace today.
I know you liked the Sweet Valley High books, because you reference them on the site. What other young adult books did you read growing up? What books influenced you as you were thinking about Spoiled?
Jessica: I as a child, and even now, am a huge reader...I read the Anastasia Krupnik books, I really loved Harriet the Spy. I read just a ton....I basically used to take my books into the shower because I found showering quite boring and I needed reading material.
Heather: I also read a lot of the same books as Jessica, a lot of Judy Blume. I tended to read a lot of stuff that my sisters lent me or I could sneak out of their rooms. There was this old romance series called Sweet Dreams—I devoured them. What cracks me up about them is not only were they terrible, but now, I'm like, wait a minute, that girl looks familiar, and it would turn out the girl in the spiky hair and the argyle sweater vest on the cover grew up to be Courtney Cox.
Judy Blume, she had one I loved, Just as Long as We're Together, which is really friendship book. I was a bit of a sap at heart. Heather and I both remember reading Forever [Judy Blume's novel about two teenagers who decide to have sex, then later break up]. We both had talked about how we read it too young, and I wonder if that influenced our decision not to go with any too mature content in Spoiled. I remembered reading that book and feeling so confused. Maybe as an adult that imprinted on me, that I don't want to put anyone through that confusion.
I think that's one of the reasons we gravitated to YA is because as much as people can sit down and talk for hours about whether they like The Corrections, or Freedom, the conversations that seem to be most fun or most uniting are the ones about what you read about growing up. Like, "Where were you when you read the book where Regina tried cocaine and died of a heart attack?"
Have you read YA books throughout your lives, or did you only begin to revisit them again as inspiration for Spoiled?
Jessica: There's definitely been an upswing in the last five years. When Gossip Girl hit, I read them, and said, "Why aren't I reading more of these YA books? I love them." In my library, the YA section was always better curated than the adult stuff.
Heather: I don't know that i ever even classified it in my head as YA. As you're growing up, you loose track of what books are targeted at me. My journey was more looking at what kind of fiction appealed to me. I would come home from college and read every fluffy romance novel that my mom and my grandmother had been trading....I think it was Gossip Girl that make me aware that they're classifications, but they're not boundaries.
Do you think the television adaptation of Gossip Girl gave adults permission to read young adult books again?
Jessica: I think you could probably make the argument that the overall success fo the CW and the WB has opened the door for grownups consuming media that's directed at teenagers.
Heather: It's the network brought you these adult-teen soap hybrids. Buffy the Vampire Slayer reminded me that something that's allegedly aimed at teens can be mature and funny and emotional and engrossing....Gossip Girl has cracked it open for a much wider audience...I do agree with you that I think the time slot and the network has given people a way to justify their interest, an interest I think they don't have to justify.
Jessica: I was just going to bring up Harry Potter. I think that's completely of an example of adults saying this so-called kids' book is awesome and I'm going to stay home all weekend and read it...I personally have never really believed in the concept of a guilty pleasure. I don't really feel guilty about anything I enjoy.