'Cobble Hill' Is Not 'Gossip Girl' 2.0

There are natural comparisons to Cecily von Ziegesar's bestselling series, but the book stands on its own.

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Cobble HillMarie Claire's December book club pick, centers on four families living in the Brooklyn neighborhood of—you guessed it—Cobble Hill as they navigate family, love, relationships, insecurities, and more. Although a couple #ReadWithMC reviewers deemed Cobble Hill 'Gossip Girl for grownups,' overall Cecily von Ziegesar's latest work stands on its own, receiving mixed reviews.

While some readers enjoyed the character-driven writing in the book, others missed the typical plot structure and drama found in the Gossip Girl series. Meanwhile, some reviewers just weren't having it at all and wanted more out of Cobble Hill. Interest in the novel will likely depend on whether or not you enjoy stories about quirky family dynamics, and if you're willing to set aside comparisons.

Find out exactly what the #ReadWithMC community loved and didn't love about Cobble Hill, below.

"I loved (and guess I kind of still do...) Gossip Girl, so I was really happy about the idea of Gossip Girl 2.0 and now living in Brooklyn. Don’t read this book with those expectations. It’s set in Cobble Hill, a nice neighborhood in Brooklyn, and we’re introduced to four families with some different quirky personalities (like aging rockstar, famous writer, ex-model, etc). Their paths cross in unusual ways, and it’s funny, weird and totally 'easy reading.' There is no plot as such, except for these four families to get to know each other. Not much of depth, but very feel-good and character driven. It’s NOT Gossip Girl, but I can totally see it being made into a TV series." —@2900cph

"As a big fan of the Gossip Girl series, I was so excited to receive this advance copy and delve into the world of essentially Gossip Girl for grownups.

Cobble Hill is a nice Brooklyn neighborhood populated with an eclectic group of residents who are searching for meaning in the minutiae of their upper middle class lives.

Stuart is the former lead singer of the wildly successful band Blind Mice. He’s plugging away at a responsible job while his wife Mandy, struggling with insecurities and depression, decides to fake having MS to absolve herself of real world responsibilities. Not surprisingly, their son Ted escapes their parental radar and has developed a bit of a pyromaniac tendency.

Meanwhile their neighbor Roy, a famed English novelist copes with writer’s block as he tries to find his next great idea for his highly-anticipated new novel that is years late. His wife, Wendy, hides her demotion from her high profile magazine job and their daughter Shy pines for her Latin teacher and is slow to notice the attentions of her classmate Liam.

Liam’s mom, Peaches, is the flirtatious school nurse trying to find purpose in her life. As her marriage flounders, she is susceptible to Stuart’s charms.

This cast of characters is rounded out with Tupper, a famed inventor and his remote, brilliant artist wife Elizabeth, leaving this neighborhood rife for 'frisson,' the elusive element Elizabeth is always seeking in her bizarre art performances.

On the surface, you might roll your eyes at this group’s seemingly first world problems, but they are actually engaged in the quest for something far deeper—for acceptance, for love, for understanding, and to be seen. Metaphors involving fire and rebirth also peel back the deeper layers of this novel.

Reminiscent of author Emma Straub’s novels, I enjoyed my time in Cobble Hill." —@suzylew_bookreview

"Written by the same author as Gossip Girl (yet IMO vastly different vibes here), this book explores multiple families that live in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. Their lives intertwine. This novel is extremely character-driven (and there are a lot of characters).

I found it to be very readable, but yet also mundane. Not much substance occurred, but there was an overarching theme. I found myself continually picking this book up to read, but I really can’t put my finger on why. This may be a good book to turn into a Little Fires Everywhere-type show (there is a Rufus-like character) and allow us to dig into the characters a little more, with one major change...

My biggest alert with this book: There are ample amounts of body comparisons between the characters and a major lack of body positivity. If you struggle with ED or body positivity I do not recommend this because I was continually reading about body sizes and saying one character was this and one was that, shaming or negatively perceiving one another in their minds and/or themselves out loud, which is not ok. And it didn’t add anything to the story; there was no positive change in perception. Major disappointment that should have been addressed.

Other CWs: discussions of MS, lots of fire, brief mention of potential animal cruelty, cheating, mentions of gruesome murder, fictitious sickness, lack of body positivity, use of character’s skin color to describe them as a person.

If you’re looking for a character-based, quick read, this would fit the bill, but really I’m struggling to recommend it due to the constant body comparisons." —@kansasbookgirl

"Does anyone read just one book at a time? I usually have at least two going. This was my lighter read whilst reading my longer books, Wolf Hall and The Count of Monte Cristo. Where are the Gossip Girl fans? This is the latest from the same author.

Cobble Hill kind of tells the story of four families. It’s a quirky lot including a former rock star, an artist, a school nurse, and a famous author. It’s funny and there were a lot of one liners in Cobble Hill that I laughed at and had to share with my husband because for some reason or another, they seemed relevant. For instance, this quote had me laughing out loud at how it feels to be a mom at times: 'In fact, the problem with having a family at all was that nobody cared if you were dead or alive until dinner went unmade and they found your torso floating in the dirty water behind Ikea.'

I enjoyed this one as a diversion, but I wanted more out of it. 🤷🏻‍♀️" —@suethebookie

"I finally finished it this morning (combo of physical and audiobook) and....I probably should’ve DNF’d a long time ago. Granted, I’ve been reading other things in between so not a total loss, but this one just wasn’t for me. ⁣⁣

I felt Cobble Hill was extremely character driven, no plot whatsoever. I was overwhelmed with the different storylines. So much happened partly because there was so many characters, but also nothing really at all happened 🤷🏾‍♀️🥴🤦🏾‍♀️. This book I will forget easily and that makes me sad because I usually love character-driven stories (think: Olive Kitteridge), but this one just wasn’t it." —@bnjreads

"Maybe I was biased because I knew Von Ziegesar wrote the Gossip Girl series, but I couldn’t help thinking this book was a version of Gossip Girl after they’ve all grown up and moved to Brooklyn’s version of the Upper East Side, Cobble Hill. 😂 And yes, I absolutely went to Brooklyn last weekend to take this picture in Cobble Hill LOL #doitforthegram⁣.

Cobble Hill follows the story of four eccentric married couples and their kids. All of them live in Cobble Hill, and each has their own unique story (and issues). You have Stuart and Mandy (former boy band member and his groupie wife), Roy and Wendy (famous author facing writing block and his wife), Peaches and Greg (school nurse that everyone has a crush on and aspiring musician), and Tupper and Elizabeth (nervous industrial designer and elusive artist), and how they all come to know each other. ⁣

Be warned—there are a LOT of character plots to follow in this one. It took me a solid ½ of the book to figure out who was married to whom, their jobs, their kids, etc. It definitely took away from the story in my opinion, but I love any type of neighborhood drama, especially when it’s set in NYC. 🚕⁣

Would give this a try if you’re into contemporary family/neighborhood dramas with a little flair!" —@bookswithtay

"Looking for something light, and being a fan of Gossip Girl, I figured Cecily von Ziegesar's new book set in BK would check all of the boxes for me. And it did! Was it the best book I've ever read, NO! I wasn't looking for that though, I was looking for an escape.

I must say, I was expecting a *bit* more drama—this very much read like an Emma Straub novel. A bunch of adults, adulting?, and overall, nothing really happens.

It was lighthearted enough, and a bit wacky at times, but don't expect a lot. This is but a very mere glimpse into a weird group of characters' lives." —@bookishinthebay

"Cobble Hill is essentially grown-up Gossip Girl, but I guess I'm in a very different place in my life (I should hope so) because it was really hard for me to care about any of characters. Not the upper-middle-class white man who made his fortune appropriating hip hop culture, not his former supermodel wife with Münchausen syndrome that is miraculously healed, not the cliched school nurse that every man wants to have an affair with.⁠ I know that this is a book that many might deem a light-hearted romp through white, middle-class Brooklyn, but I personally want my reading time back.⁠" —@enobooks

"This book starts off strong, but ultimately left me wanting more. I’d call it Seinfeld for the Gossip Girl generation, but I’m not sure whether the GG generation is actually interested in Seinfeld.

Cobble Hill is a very particular vibe. I love the way Cecily von Ziegesar captures New York. It’s one of the things I loved most about the Gossip Girl series, and it continues to be one of her great skills. The cast of characters is at times overwhelmingly large, and with unannounced perspective jumps from paragraph to paragraph, the book unapologetically expects the reader to keep up. By the end I had settled into the rhythm, but it took a little getting used to.

Cobble Hill starts strong, but begins to wander in the middle toward a surprisingly predictable end. The 'Bernadette' and author characters in particular were intriguing, but ended up a bit too on the nose. Overall, this wasn’t a winner for me, but I think a very particular audience will enjoy it." —@whatalexreads

"Cobble Hill follows four families and their children as their interactions all lead them towards a variety of events that they all attend together. You’re privy to the inner workings of the characters: their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It’s a fascinating look at family life in a variety of settings.

So, I think that one thing to remember is that this isn’t Gossip Girl. This is contemporary fiction, and shouldn’t be expected to be similar to the structure of the Gossip Girl series. Once I had that in my head, this book became much more enjoyable for me. As the relationships between the characters became more defined, I became more invested in how different situations would play out (including an illicit romance, a lie that had been going on for over a year, and a few friendships). I couldn’t put the book down in the second half.

Cobble Hill is definitely more about the journey towards one large party in the last 60 pages of the book, and then how the relationships come into play. It’s hard to describe, but if you enjoy family dynamics or a character-driven book, I think you’d enjoy this book. If you’re expecting a more typical plot structure that’s clearly defined, this book may not be for you." —@whatalyssareads

Missed out on our December book club pick? In January, we're reading The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans. Read an excerpt from the book here.

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Rachel Epstein

Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.