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Generation Next

A newly youthful Barbie takes Manhattan.

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Do you think this says 'out-of-towner'?" asks a nervous Barbie as she tries on outfits for her first day of school. Yes, that's the Barbie, who recently relocated from Malibu to Manhattan, where she and a clique of multiculti friends have enrolled in a school that sounds an awful lot like Stuyvesant High.

Mattel, Inc.'s new strategy for the doll once popular with girls up to age 12 but now spurned by the over-8 set requires Barbie, like any number of young starlets these days, to play a teenager. She and the five other dolls in the Generation Girl line -- co-launched with a series of young-adult Golden Books, including New York, Here We Come, quoted above -- start school at the fictitious International High School in TriBeCa.

Barbie doesn't live in that pink townhouse anymore: The books have her sleeping on an Upper West Side futon, shopping thrift stores, and helping fight a developer's plans to build on a slave burial ground.

Golden Books editor Sharon Gayle says she based the school on Stuyvesant because "we all wanted Barbie to go beyond being a ditz." She's even got a last name now: Roberts. "We never had a full name for Barbie because she never had a personality before," says Mattel spokeswoman Lisa McKendall. Now Barbie and her friends edit the school newspaper, toil at computers, and -- hey, they're still fashion plates -- fantasize about acting and modeling careers.

The $24 dolls have already been sanitized slightly since their debut at this year's Toy Fair: Barbie lost her ankle tattoo, and her friend Chelsie ditched a nose stud after parents freaked over another doll's ill-timed midriff tattoo.

Still, Mattel hopes the books will give the dolls enough edge to capture the all-important "tween" demographic. "Uh-oh!" Chelsie thinks in Singing Sensation when her mother spots her with Barbie and the others in the Village. "Here she was . . . surrounded by girls her mother would think were 'extremely unsuitable.' "


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