To help those that may not read the books (or read them a long time and don’t want to re-read), I will post a summary of the book before the podcast where we discuss the book. If you have any suggestions or you feel the summary is too long, let me know.
Originally released in 2002 by Little, Brown Publishing.
Written by Cecily von Ziegesar
Followed by: You Know You Love Me
Gossip Girl (Book One)
Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.
- Oscar Wilde
The Welcome-back party.
It’s Monday night and Eleanor Waldorf is having her first party in society after her divorce, and with a new man in tow – overweight and greasy Cyrus Rose. Her daughter, Blair despises her mother’s new man, but she is content with her otherwise normal life with her boyfriend, Nate Archibald – the studliest boy on the Upper East Side. Blair has always wanted her life to be movie perfect and she always played the “good girl” when it came to giving her virginity to Nate, despite her womanly needs. But at the party, she becomes determined on having sex with Nate until…
Serena van der Woodsen shows up unexpectedly! Nate leaves to talk with Serena and Blair procrastinates talking with Serena by chatting with Chuck Bass, Isabel Coates and Kati Farkas. She doesn’t have much love for Serena; after leaving without a goodbye over a year ago, and with minimal communication over the last year she thought Serena was gone and that friendship and part of her life was over. But it seems like Serena is here to stay and will be attending Constance Billard School for Girls with Blair midterm. Now that Serena is here, Blair is in jeopardy of losing her newly gained status as the most popular girl. Blair is mad with Serena.
Nate is reminiscing with Serena and they remember the time on a hot August day before Grade 11, when they both had sex for the first time. They called it parting the “Red Sea”. Nate and Serena never had the opportunity to talk about their sleeping together, since Serena left NYC unexpectedly a few weeks later. Nate is worried that Blair might find out since he told Chuck Bass a few days earlier about the event over a drunken game. But Serena just wants life to go back to the way it was in Grade 10 and Nate is still confused over which girl he truly loves.
At the soiré dinner, Serena is telling the parents and their children her adventures during her year past at the boarding school, Hanover Academy. Everyone is delighted by the stories, but Blair is brooding, avoiding conversation by overeating. When Serena mentions her breasts at dinner, Blair dashes and vomits her dinner. Serena overhears the act and confronts Blair, telling her she wants the good times back. Blair dismisses Serena and heads back to dinner.
Serena’s first day
The next day at school, Serena is late for Prayer. Having destroyed her old uniform last year when she left, she needed a new uniform and now she must wear a maroon knee-length skirt, making her stand out even more since the seniors were still wearing their old uniforms. Rumor and gossip fly among the senior girls about reasons of Serena’s return and lateness for her first day. Meanwhile, in the back of the assembly, Jenny Humphrey is idolizing Serena and fantasizing about her fantastic year of travelling. Jenny tries to remain invisible, which is easy with with her curly brown hair and short stature, but hard with her 34D breasts.
After Prayer, Jenny tells her artiste poet brother, Dan, about Serena’s return. He has a mini-heart attack, which may or may not have been caused by his addiction to cigarettes, coffee and sugar. Serena has been Dan’s private muse for his writing over the last two years. Outside of his school, Riverside Prep, he overhears Chuck telling his classmates about that Serena being a major slut was the reason for her expulsion from Hanover. Dan storms off.
In Advanced Film Studies at Constance, Vanessa is presenting her idea for a “War and Peace” mood film and her need for someone to play the part of Natasha. Blair suggests that she should direct the film, and Vanessa gets irritated. The teacher suggests that Vanessa posts some announcements on the bulletin board for the auditions for Natasha. After class, Blair, Kati and Isabel are having lunch. Serena spots the group and joins in the discussion. Serena tells them that she wants life to be like before she left and that she wants to party with the girls again. Blair is very cold and comes up with excuses for why she can’t hang out with Serena. Blair also omits mentioning that she’s organizing the Kiss on the Lips party at the old Barney’s bulding to support the Central Park peregrine falcons. Blair knows she should have told Serena, but she doesn’t want Serena messing up her life. She then leaves with Kati and Isabel quickly following suit, leaving Serena alone, wondering what’s wrong with her.
Later that night, Serena calls Nate seeking attention. After getting the voicemail, she tries her much loved, older playboy brother Erik, who’s attending Brown. She leaves another message.
Wednesday morning, Jenny talks to Dan about Serena’s arrival, while Dan is practicing for his role as Prince Andrei in Vanessa’s remake of “War and Peace”. Jenny suggests that Dan should attend the Kiss on the Lips party for more chances to meet the uber-girl, Serena, since she will likely be there. Rufus, Dan and Jenny’s embarrassing beatnik father, overhears and criticizes Jenny’s desire to be at snobby rich events.
At St. Jude’s, Nate deletes Blair’s email announcement that she’s finally ready to sleep with Nate. He instead emails Serena about her voicemail. Nate’s athletic buds; Jeremy, Charlie and Anthony, convince Nate to cut Gym to play some soccer and get high. They get super blitzed and Nate’s buddies try to weasel information about Serena out of him, but Nate is evasive. They debate Serena’s supposed baby left behind in France and conclude that both Blair and Serena are awesome lays.
Serena worries about her future
Serena meets with Mrs. Glos, Constance’s super-old college advisor. Mrs. Glos suggests that Serena should add some extracurriculars like the Interschool Play of “Gone with the Wind” to make up for Serena’s less than stellar academic performance. Serena is convinced that she needs to improve her extracurriculars and begins to worry about her future if she doesn’t get into college. Her regular class schedule isn’t as competitive as a full AP schedule, like Blair’s. Serena bites away at her nails, her new nervous tic she picked up since returning to the Upper East Side.
To kill some time before auditions, Serena learns of the Remi brothers art gallery opening of their photo exhibit of celebrities and some body part that questionably looks like an eye. The Remi brothers meet Serena and are entranced, deciding that they will make an art piece out of Serena’s “eye” and use it for the promo art for the New York Transit Authority.
Meanwhile, Blair, Kati, Isabel are planning for the Kiss on the Lips party, but due to a printer/location mix-up, they have no invitations and the party is 9 days away. Jenny overhears and suggests that she can do the invites and mail them for free. She asks for an invite in return. Blair agrees (calling her “Ginny”) and gives her an extra invite and Jenny finds this awesome.
After the art gallery Serena heads to Constance for the play tryouts, but finds the play ridiculous. She leaves and notices Vanessa’s call for auditions and dashes to Madison Square Park for auditions. Vanessa is displeased that only Marjorie, a frumpy ugly redhead, has showed up for the audition and considers playing Dan’s romantic interest until Serena shows up. Serena is given a script and auditions with Dan. She finds him intriguing; he’s brooding and looks artsy and he can act well. Serena imagines being friends with Dan and enjoys playing as Natasha.
Did Serena get the role?
Serena, after having done an awesome job thought she would get the role over Marjoriewho massacred the lines. However, during second recess, Vanessa tells Serena that she didn’t the part, saying that Dan and her decided that Marjorie was more edgy. Serena’s friend crush on Dan is destroyed. Serena then tries to salvage the situation by asking Blair to help her make a movie, offering that Blair can be Audrey Hepburn. Blair rejects Serena, Serena’s dejection evokes some nostalgia and Blair offers that Serena should come with her to the Tribeca for drinks. Serena composes herself and agrees and makes plans to make a movie on her own.
Vanessa tells Dan of her decision for the first time, and Dan is upset with Vanessa. She was trying to intervene in the apparent chemistry between Serena and Dan and cites gossip from “sources” about Serena’s drug manufacture ring of “S” and multiple super-STD infection as reasons for why she was inappropriate for the part of Natasha. Vanessa starts seeing the Remi brothers promo with Serena’s belly button/rosebud/eye/clenched lips everywhere on the metro and becomes a little paranoid. Dan is dismayed and takes it out on Vanessa. After receiving the extra invite to the Kiss on the Lips party from Jenny, he thinks his opportunity to ask Serena out was ruined. Dan is upset with Vanessa.
At lunch, Jenny signs a volunteer list for Serena’s film making project. Serena, spying the list, notices the volunteer right away and approaches her. Jenny lists her artistic experience and gives Serena a Kiss on the Lips invite. The invite list that Blair had given Jenny had Serena’s dorm address at Hanover, so Jenny figured it would be more practical if she delivered the invite now. After hearing Jenny’s invite story and reading the invite, Serena is hurt that Blair didn’t tell her about the party. Serena and Jenny introduce themselves formally and Serena agrees to allow Jenny to volunteer.
Virgins and the Tribeca
It’s Friday evening and it’s raining. Blair meets Serena at the Tribeca Star Lounge for drinks. Serena shows up a little late and is surprised to find only Blair. She was expecting everyone to be there: Chuck, Nate , Kati, Isabel and Blair. Blair and Serena talk a little. Serena tells Blair the real reason why she returned to Constance: she missed the first 3 weeks of school at Hanover since she was partying in France and Hanover booted her. Serena then also expresses her insecurities with the future after high school. Serena brings up the Kiss on the Lips invite; Blair brushes her off and leaves, anxious to meet with Nate since she was about to yield her virginity. She leaves a twenty for the drinks.
Blair is a little late arriving home, and frantically prepares for the big night by cueing a mixed CD with romantic songs, lighting lots of candles and setting red wine. Nate is not anticipating the event, certain that Blair knows the truth about him and Serena sleeping together. Once there, Nate tries to get into the act, but loses his hard-on. He finally tells Blair the truth and she throws him out, calling him pathetic. Nate staggers out gleefully, hoping for a joint and a burrito.
Meanwhile, Chuck runs into Serena left behind at the Tribeca. Chuck offers to pay for Serena’s drinks, so Serena collects Blair’s twenty to return to her later. Chuck convinces Serena to come up to his family’s suite despite Blair saying that partying in the Bass suite is passé. Once there, Serena finds pictures of Blair and company partying during Grade 11. She realizes that Blair is lying to her now. Chuck forces himself onto Serena, but having drunk cosmos on an empty stomach, she feels sick. Chuck hales a taxi for her, giving his monogrammed scarf to protect her from the rain. Disappointed that he wasn’t getting laid, he gets mad and finally calls her a slut, revealing to her that he knows about her and Nate her having sex. She vomits and soils Chuck’s scarf.
Serena ends up at her apartment building and is short on her cab fare. Nate shows up and loans the cash. The two wind up upstairs in Serena’s bedroom and start talking. Nate reflects on his love for her. Serena asks Nate to join her in his bed and Nate is turned off, realising that Serena is no longer the innocent girl he knew. Noticing Serena’s bag with Chuck’s scarf and the twenty from Blair spilling out, Nate postulates on Serena with Chuck and why she needed money for the cab if she had a twenty. He leaves confused.
Saturday morning, Jenny drags Dan to Barney’s. She’s convinced Rufus to hand over his credit card, under the stipulation that she goes to Sears (aka the proletarian department store), but Jenny wants something good. Whilst shopping, Dan spots Serena also shopping and dashes away. He fantasizes about going out with Serena and what he would wear and then investigates some Armani tuxes. Jenny runs intoSerena and envies her body and her mother.
Sunday is brunch. All the rich families are there: the Archibalds, the van der Woodsens, the Waldorfs, the Coates, the Farkases and the Basses. Cyrus notices Serena’s encounter with the Remi brothers in the Sunday Times Style section and everyone remains quiet on the topic. Embarrassments are to be ignored. Nate, who has spent yesterday drinking and getting high, tries to reconcile with Blair but is scolded. Serena tries to talk to Nate, but he rejects her in turn. Serena wants to cry. Blair tunes every one out by binging on crème brulée, with plans to throw it up later. Serena runs into Blair in the bathroom and talks coldly with her. Nate runs into Cyrus in the washroom and learns that Cyrus is planning on proposing to Blair’s mother.
The Kiss on the Lips Party
Tonight is the Kiss on the Lips party. A week has passed and Serena isn’t feeling more welcomed. Her isolation has made her feel like a shadow of the fun party girl she once was. Her parents are insisting that she attend the Kiss on the Lips party, wearing a black dress that her mother chose at Barney’s last weekend. Serena disagrees, opting for a white vintage dress. Erik calls her back, and after telling her brother about the Nate and Blair situation, he gives Serena a motivating talk about the “fuck ‘em all” philosophy. Serena then concludes that she should skip the party and calls Vanessa. She asks for her help on her film project. Vanessa agrees. After learning that Serena didn’t get an invite to the Kiss on the Lips party (and might, thusly, be cool ), Vanessa invites Serena to hang out later tonight.
Serena, Vanessa and her sister, Ruby, are at a bar in Williamsburg to see Ruby’s band, SugarDaddy, perform. Vanessa is amazed at Serena’s ability to capture her sister’s affection. Dan shows up, having been allowed by Jenny to ditch the Kiss on the Lips party. He was still wearing his tux for the party, but he wanted to go to Williamsburg nonetheless, to apologize to Vanessa over the Marjorie incident. Instead, he was distracted, having found Serena there.
Blair runs into Jenny at the Kiss on the Lips party who is thoroughly enjoying her first rich people party. Blair learns that Jenny will be helping Serena on her film project. Jenny resolves to wait for Serena with Blair, but Blair leavesand sics Chuck on Jenny. Chuck is delighted with Jenny’s chest. Blair sickened at the mention of Serena, needing to vomit. Nate finds Blairin the washroom and confesses that she is the one that he really wants. Blair accepts him back, forcing him to promise to stay away from Serena and end his friendship with her. He agrees and they leave together.
Chuck takes advantage of Jenny’s drunkenness and forces his tongue into her mouth and drags her to the ladies room. She desperately calls Dan, and begs him to come get her. Dan, who is dancing with Serena at the bar in Williamsburg, announces that he should retrieve Jenny given the weird phone call. Vanessa doesn’t mind Dan with Serena now, as she flirts with the sexy bartender, Clark, who says that he had a crush on her forever.
Dan and Serena get to the party and Serena runs into Nate who tries to tell Serena that they can no longer be friends. Serena, unfazed by Nate, runs into Blair and give her back her twenty, proud of the fact that she didn’t lie or manipulate like Blair. Heading to the washroom, Serena overhears Chuck with a girl in the washroom. Dan asks if Jenny is in there and Serena realizes that it’s Jenny in the stall getting mauled by Chuck. Serena tells Chuck to leave and he accuses Serena of all the rumors people have been spreading about her since her return. Chuck finally leaves, almost rousing a fight out of Dan. Serena asks Dan if he believes all the stuff that Chuck said. He says, “No, I just don’t see you like that” and Serena decides that this school year may not be so bad after all.