"Serena and Blair were best friends. Then Serena went off to boarding school. Before that, she slept with Blair's boyfriend," says Angela Coate, a teenager who likes to read racy book. This may sound like the plot of an R-rated flick, but Angela is telling her mom about one of her favorite teen reads! "'Sex and The City' for the younger set. Is this one you've been hiding from me?," asks Angela's mom, Paulette Hodgkins. "A parent might find out and initially be surprised or shocked," says Paulette. Because the stories often deal with very adult themes. "The books do deal with sex, drugs, cheating on your boyfriend or girlfriend," says Angela. And they're selling like crazy, with several topping the New York Times Children's Best Seller List. One of the most popular series, 'Gossip Girl,' has sold more than 2-million copies. The main characters? "They're wealthy; they party a lot., but they're also, in a sense, just like every teenager. They get into trouble. They're trying to get into college. Sex is, of course, one of the issues," says Author Cecily Von Ziegesar. She says her books simply deal with subjects that today's kids are exposed to all the time. "If anything, the books are less shocking than what kids are seeing in movies and in magazines and on television. There is no graphic sex," says Von Ziegesar. Maybe not...but there are lines like 'You don't have to be romantic to get in my pants again..' in her book "Because I'm Worth It." As for other teen favorites? Check out these lines about planned oral sex parties from "Rainbow Party': '...technically, it's not a sex party. It's just oral.' Or drug induced behavior from the "Au Pairs": 'You know how pot makes me so horny...' it says on page 143 in the book. While some contain age recommendations, parents like Jodie Barnett would like to see an official ratings system - like on CD's and video games. "Children under 16 or so shouldn't be allowed to buy them," says Jodie. "That's a touchy issue because what is racy to one, might not be racy to another so it's pretty subjective," says Tyler mother and resident Sheila McDonald. Parenting Expert Susan Newman says if she had a 13-year-old daughter, she wouldn't want her to read them. But kids everywhere are and parents can use the torrid tales as a way to discuss tough topics. "I can point to the sex, the drugs, the huge expenditures of money on clothes and talk about that they're not the values we have in our family," says Susan. "There's just a lot of stuff out there that can kinda cloud their thoughts and maybe worry them about things that they don't need to be concerned about because they're kids," says Tyler mother and resident Linda Heatley. Angela says these books are fun and that kids won't have promiscious sex just because the characters are. As for her mom, while she was surprised she's ok with the content. "Gossip girl is not going to be responsible for the moral decay of the teenage society," says Angela. "I think that is out, the kids already know about it so I think that could give you the opportunity to talk to your kid about it," says Linda.
We also contacted the publisher of the "Au Pairs" and "Rainbow Party." Simon and Schuster defend the books saying "Rainbow Party" addresses "important and timeless issues relevant to teens including self-esteem, peer pressure" and "making an informed and educated decision about readiness for sexual activity." The company also stresses that the books are aimed at girls 14 and over.