The aim of explaining the difference between the books and the show is to distinguish that the shows are able to stand on their own without the books carrying the story line.
The best way to see the differences is by looking at the characters and their relationships between one another.
Lily and Rufus play key roles in the show, despite being practically absent in the novels. One interesting aspect of the show that does not come from the book is Rufus and Lily’s relationship. In the books, Lily and her husband are rarely mentioned. While in the first two seasons alone, Lily is a significant character in the show’s development. The writers did this to provide another storyline for the viewer to follow. Gossip Girl, like any other teen drama, has multiple story lines that the viewer has to follow. The producers probably felt that with adding this Lily and Rufus relationship the viewer would be compelled to watch. Within the first two season the Serena and Dan relationship that begins to develop is deeply affected by the Lily and Rufus relationship of their past. This dynamic also shows how intertwined everyone’s lives are on the show. During the first couple of episodes of Gossip Girl Dan appears to be an insider but given the added storyline of Lily and Rufus’s past, the Humphreys don’t seem like total outsiders. In a way they already had that in to the Upper East Side. Without the theme of Lily and Rufus to the show, Dan would just appear to be an outsider trying to get a way in. In the show however, he appears to make his way in and it is as if Rufus is providing a leeway given his past relationship with Lily when they were kids.
Another key difference between the books and the novel is how Eric is prevalent within the first two seasons. In the books he is rarely mentioned and he is actually Serena’s older brother that attends Brown. The show completely changes how they want the character of Eric to be played. In the show he is introduced as a kid who just tried to commit suicide. His mom (Lily) has been trying to hide the secret that he is actually in rehab getting help for his depression. She has been telling people that he is in Florida visiting family. Another important part of Eric is the fact that he is gay. The idea of a gay character was still relatively new to television but the writers wanted to include the gay storyline to show that coming out to your parents and society is very hard.
Jenny in the show and Jenny from the book are totally different people. In the show she appears to be very innocent and clean until she changes her image to try to become popular. In the show she has blonde hair, tall, and skinny. In the books she has curly brown hair and has a very large chest that is the root of her insecurities. She is barely mentioned in the book besides her desire to be popular. She never became as popular as she hoped. I think the writers transformed her to show the viewer that it’s not always the best to change yourself to get popular. Later on in the series, Jenny is basically banished from the Upper East Side. She changed and I think her “banishment” was supposed to pinpoint that changing yourself for others isn’t right.
In the books Chuck is basically gay, a much different side of him on the show. On the show he is a ladies man, while in the book he is a minor character who has no significance in the books.
Overall the show is very loosely based upon the books. The producers of the show changed the books so much to appeal to a broader audience. While it makes sense to do so to bring in more viewers, the books are initially what drew people like me to the show. Yes the show was very well written full of drama, but the books weren’t as dramatic as the show is. The books were more about growing up and the transition from a teenager into adulthood.
The books are also much more tame in comparison to the show. The books were much more relatable. I didn’t feel the instant connection between the show and myself. I remember being so excited to watch the books be converted to a television show. I was 12 at the time of the premiere, and wow I noticed a difference within the first episode. The show was much more raunchy. It seemed to me as if it was too mature of a show for me.
As I’ve gotten older I have grown to appreciate the show for what it was. It was a great television series…on its own. The books and show are loosely related, but that is not a bad thing. Both turned out to be great on their own.