GOSSIP OF THE STARLINGS
by Nina De Gramont
Author Nina de Gramont’s GOSSIP OF THE STARLINGS, set in the 1980’s Reagan time in American, at the Esther Percy School for Girls, is an unsettling depiction of a young girl who becomes so caught up in the lure of common peer pressure that she almost ruins her life because of it. With youth on their side, these girls are young women physically, but teenagers emotionally, and are caught up in the world of what some may now call ‘mean girls’. Selfish and daring, stubborn and cruel, this is the youth that so commonly thinks they are indestructible.
Catherine Morrow is sent to the Esther Percy School after she is caught in bed with her boyfriend, John Paul. She is only admitted under the stipulation that she play by the rules and not get in any trouble. What one would think would be the perfect place for Catherine is nothing more than a breeding ground for many girls in the same situations, looking for a fast life; a break-the-rules, who-knows-more-than-I- do, world!
Once she is at the school, Catherine meets lovely and captivating Skye Butterfield, who is the daughter of a famous Senator from the area. Their sudden friendship begins and readers first meet them sharing cocaine in Catherine’s dorm room which is not a one-time occurrence. Skye quickly displays very unpredictable behavior as she appears to strive for a life of self-destruction built on drugs, alcohol, and all the wrong kind of attention. Whether Skye is pushing the envelope with her drug use, stealing a credit card, or tempting a professor into a career ending affair with a student, Catherine is easily caught up in the attraction of this whirlwind of a personality. Although there are times that Catherine exhibits her inner strength and knowledge of right and wrong, she is unable to stop Skye’s self-destructive behaviors. Instead, she is more prone to get caught up in them. At one point, just to hurt her father’s successfully strengthening political career, she joins a protest on the environment that could spell political suicide for him.
In a side story, is the one thing that means so much to Catherine, and that is her horse riding career. This is a goal she hopes to attain, in that she loves it so much, and almost succeeds were it not for Skye and her undoing of Catherine’s dream. Skye even finds a way to come between Catherine and Jean Paul. With all those around Catherine coming from moneyed households, whereas Jean Paul does not, it is a recipe for disaster. Catherine had never thought of it being a problem for them but now as she gets caught up in Skye’s crowd and the goings on at the wealthy Esther Percy School, it becomes increasingly evident that this is not the gang Jean Paul can compete with especially once they all go off to their Ivy League colleges.
In the beginning, it seems that Catherine is the trouble maker but roles quickly change as we see Catherine coming to her senses somewhat and begging Skye to slow down, to take it easy with the drugs and the partying. Catherine sees things spiraling out of control but doesn’t know how to stop it. The more that Skye pushes Catherine to do one thing worse than the last, things begin to change. All of this starts to take a toll on Catherine and to the point that her good friends from home recognize the trouble that Skye can be and so back away from this life Catherine seems to have chosen as it is too much for them.
Catherine watches as Skye’s disloyalty grows, with Catherine at first unaware that her “friend” would just as soon use Catherine if need be, then to throw her aside. With all this going on, readers would anticipate parents becoming more involved and worried about their children’s behavior, but they aren’t. That part I found so hard to understand as surely some of those parents cared how their child was doing, but the book didn’t seem to reflect that. I believe there would have to have been some parent who saw what was happening with their child and taken action. Perhaps, I am just too naïve for this kind of world of wealth and preoccupation of one’s own child.
Nina De Gramont gives readers a coming-of-age story but one that is much darker and disturbing than might be expected. GOSSIP OF THE STARLINGS takes readers into the stark reality of the overindulgence and excess of today’s privileged youth and the tragic results of their actions.