NEW YORK — Three of the four self-professed “Notebook Girls” are giggling about their collective high school heartthrob, Tyler, over breakfasts of cinnamon toast and orange juice at the Fifth Avenue Coffee Shop.
“Everyone has their personal Tyler,” philosophizes Courtney Toombs, recalling their particular heartbreaker from their alma mater, Stuyvesant High School. Sophie Pollitt-Cohen goes on to explain, with obvious glee, that the former hunk now lives with his parents and apparently has barely enough credits to transfer colleges.
Tyler is just one of the many supporting characters who spiral in and out of “The Notebook Girls,” a diary collectively written by Pollitt-Cohen, Toombs, Lindsey Newman and Julia Baskin (who’s stuck at college due to a conflicting spring break schedule). The four chronicle their first two years at Stuyvesant with a mix of candor and vulgarity — not sparing any details of adolescent experimentation with drugs, alcohol and sex. Nosy parents, floozy girls and prying university film students all make appearances while the girls stumble from one “learning experience” to another.
The material might shock some parents, but the girls have higher ambitions. “I hope that good things come out of it,” says Pollitt-Cohen.
“But at the same time, I don’t feel like we have to be role models,” Toombs adds. “I would hope in reading our book, they would learn from our lessons.” When asked what life skills they learned during their high school years, the three girls seem to be at a loss.
“Your limits with drinking,” volunteers Pollitt-Cohen.
When the group decided to start the diary, they were unaware how important that spiral-bound notebook would become to them. As each girl added her personal entries, along with pictures, cartoons and, at one point, beer bottle caps, they all gained insight into what it meant to be a teenager in New York City post-9/11. And as the “Notebook” grew in size and content, it started to look to them less like an adolescent distraction and more like publishable material.
Pollitt-Cohen — the daughter of renowned columnists Randy Cohen (The New York Times Magazine’s “Ethicist”) and Katha Pollitt (a columnist for The Nation) — was the one who started the ball rolling to find an agent. “My dad thought that other people might be interested in what we were writing,” recounts Pollitt-Cohen. A year later, publishers came running and, after entertaining several offers, the young women went with Warner Books in fall 2004.
This story first appeared in the April 10, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Now freshmen at Wesleyan (Pollitt-Cohen), Princeton (Toombs), Cornell (Newman) and Washington University (Baskin), the girls keep in touch via their Web site, thenotebookgirls.com, and through frequent e-mails. There’s talk of a “Notebook Girls” television series, but the quartet is keeping the details vague.
“We always joke that there’ll be a ‘Notebook Girls 2,'” quips Pollitt-Cohen with sass. “‘The Co-Ed Edition.'”