It's that time of year again, when the temperature drops, the nights draw in and even the brightest lights of the Upper East Side can't keep out the shadows. So wrap up warm and stay safe - because somewhere out there, a psycho killer's on the loose…
Released in October 2011, Gossip Girl: Psycho Killer is a "reimagined and expanded" slasher version of the first in Cecily von Ziegesar's phenomenally successful Gossip Girl series. In many ways it follows the same plot as the original novel, opening with Serena van der Woodsen's sudden return to New York and her friends on the Upper East Side. Most of the characters and locations will be familiar to readers of the series, as will the drinking, the sex and the drugs - but this time, there's one more vice. Murder. And as Serena hacks a bloody swathe through New York society, it isn't long before her BFF Blair starts to follow suit…
One of the most interesting things about GG:PK is that it's a reworking by the original author, whose publishers approached her with the idea of a parody genre mash-up addition to the series (no doubt inspired by the success of books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies shuffling into the bestseller lists in 2009). This means that while it's not exactly canon, it perhaps carries a little more weight than a parody written by someone else would.
In an interview with EW when the book was released, Von Ziegesar defended the reworking as a gory but fun (and ludicrously over-the-top) reimagining of Serena and Blair's world - and certainly a lot of the bloodshed supports that (death by exploding eyeballs? An eyelid ripped off by eyelash curlers? An unfortunate encounter with a garbage disposal unit?). Despite this, a Washington Post piece still condemned it as having "the most vile and repugnant premise of any book aimed at teens I have ever read."
Reading the book, however, it's clear that Von Ziegesar's tongue could not be any further in her cheek: this is very definitely an alternate version of New York, where vultures circle over Park Avenue and Vanessa Abram's War and Peace-inspired short film of the original novel becomes a tribute to Natural Born Killers, filmed on the Brooklyn Bridge. Jenny gorges on packs of raw hamburger meat, while Serena's couture is bloodstained and Dan writes haikus about dismemberment. The (many) deaths themselves are deliberately contrived to be absurd - more Heathers than Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
What's also obvious is the attention to detail in the reworking: the weapons (actual or improvised) deployed by the murderous protagonists are described in exactly the same terms as their jewellery or their designer clothes. Food is subtly tweaked - or not so subtly, in a couple of places - and mentions of books or films are replaced with horror references. It does get a little on the laboured side from time to time, but no-one could accuse Ms. Von Ziegesar of not committing to the project.
Is Gossip Girl: Psycho Killer a serious read? One look at the cover should answer that. Is it a book for the faint hearted? Ditto. Is it a gory, gruesome and occasionally stomach-churning romp through a version of New York where the wealthy and well-connected can literally get away with murder? Absolutely.
They say life on the Upper East Side is never boring. Trust me, it isn't. Living here is an absolute scream…
You know you love me,
Lou Morgan is the author of, amongst other things, the Blood and Feathers series (Solaris) and the study-drugs-and-slaughter YA horror novel, Sleepless (coming January 2015 from Stripes - but the ebook snuck out early in the UK!). You can swap Gossip Girl, er, gossip, with her on Twitter at @LouMorgan.