Word for Word: Funny and feminist book for teens
‘Rookie’ is funny and feminist, irreverent and inclusive, and it treats its young readers with respect and understanding
This beautifully produced book features pieces on everything from toxic friendships to gender identity, as well as imaginative photo shoots, cool playlists and contributions from Morrissey and Lena Dunham
If it weren’t for the fact that it would be both really expensive and a bit creepy, I’d give a copy of Rookie Yearbook Two to every teenage girl I met. The second anthology of writing from the teen website Rookie (rookiemag.com), this beautifully produced book features pieces on everything from toxic friendships to gender identity, as well as imaginative photo shoots, cool playlists and contributions from Morrissey and Lena Dunham.
It’s funny and feminist, irreverent and inclusive, and it treats its young readers with respect and understanding. This isn’t surprising, because Rookie was founded in 2011 by an American high-school student called Tavi Gevinson when she was just 15. Now 17, she runs the site with a team of adult and teenage writers, and the result perfectly combines a grown-up sense of perspective with authentic adolescent enthusiasm, angst and wit.
I would have adored Rookie’s yearbook when I was a teenager, but things were very different when I hit my teens, 25 years ago. That doesn’t mean that adolescents weren’t catered for in the past. There’s now a widespread belief that books written for and about teenagers are a relatively recent phenomenon. But books squarely aimed at teens started appearing after the second World War. The 1970s saw the genre explode, with the emergence of groundbreaking writers such as Judy Blume and Paul Zindel.
By the time I hit my teens there were several big British young-adult imprints. Penguin had launched Puffin Plus (later simply Plus), which published everything from Rumer Godden’s The Greengage Summer to Bette Green’s Summer of My German Soldier. Harper Collins, meanwhile, had Teen Tracks, whose impressive list included Robert Cormier and Cynthia Voigt.
What has changed since then is not just the volume of young adult books but the variety. Until the 1990s, young-adult literature in English was dominated by American voices. The majority of the young-adult books I read in my teens were American, which is why when, aged 13, I tried to write one, it was about an Irish girl who moved to New Jersey. Unsurprisingly, my attempt to copy Paula Danziger despite never having set foot in the United States was not very successful.
A quarter of a century later, things are very different. Many Irish authors are writing for teens. Many more books acknowledge teens’ different sexualities and gender identities.
If you want to read about heroic teens, supernatural teens, angsty teens, disabled teens, funny teens, there is a book for you. And if you want to read what teenagers have to say, well, can I give you this copy of Rookie Yearbook?
Anna Carey’s third novel, Rebecca Rocks, is out now.