posted by Hollie-Anne Brooks

We’re pretty angry right now.

Zoella recently launched a book club in line with British retailer WH Smith. The project aims to enhance the reading experience for millions across the globe. The concept is simple- Zoe has selected eight YA (Young Adult) books which she’ll then go on to review and discuss on social media, meaning her fans can read alongside her and feel even closer to their favourite YouTuber.

Despite it being just several days since Zoella announced the eight novels included in her book club, sales have gone through the roof with every single one of the books climbing the charts within 24 hours of Zoe sharing her love of them. So, what could possibly be wrong with more people buying, reading and enjoying books? Well, everything if you’re a journalist from British newspaper The Guardian.

In an article entitled “Zoella’s book club: cute, glittery- but all a bit vanilla”, Amelia Tait slams the concept of the book club and claims Zoe’s choices are “almost all of the girl-meets-boy variety”.

First off, we need to point out that we’re never afraid to call YouTubers out when we disagree with something so this isn’t a case of praising Zoe for the sake of it- everyone has their faults. But as we read the Guardian article, we couldn’t help but feel like all the fun was being sucked out of life. And if you didn’t know, sometimes it’s OK for things to be funny, silly and- to put it bluntly- a little bit fluffy.

Can you remember the first book you ever read? Or the ones that made an impact on you when you were a young teen? A group chat at We The Unicorns HQ reveals several of us girls in the office were head over heels for Jacqueline Wilson’s “Girls In Love” series. And, of course, let’s not forget our collective love of Harry Potter.

Throughout our lives we’ve dipped in and out of novels which have make us laugh until we cry, actually cry tears of sadness and even made us change our way of living. Who cares if some of the words aren’t stupidly long? Who cares if we love books where a boy meets a girl and they fall in love? They’re enjoyable- just like Zoe’s beauty and fashion videos. Like YouTube, a lot of YA novels offer an escapism from the boring every day patterns or, in some cases, from the harrowing experiences we’re going through.

Which leads us onto the next point- the books Zoe has chosen have some incredibly serious issues woven throughout. Mental health- anxiety, depression- feature heavily in her choices and we can speak with honesty that those issues are anything but “cute, glittery and vanilla”.

If one single teen buys one book on Zoella’s list and it saves them from a night of stress and upset or makes them forget about the bullying they faced at school or their parents divorce just for a few moments then surely Zoe’s work here is done? If it encourages one person to start reading and forms a lifetime love then surely that’s a win for society in general?

Putting aside the fact Zoe Sugg is an entrepreneur and great advocate for being self employed, she’s also just a little bit of fun at the end of the day for millions of people… What’s wrong with that? The mainstream media need to work out that people of all ages can read the most “cute and glittery” novel in the world whilst also be highly intelligent.

The journalist claims “But perhaps Zoella has a responsibility to expose her young fandom to more. Put together, these books teach young girls care predominately about boys- not education, not society, not history”. Amelia Tait overlooks that fact that teens can be educated on these things elsewhere, it’s not down to Zoella to be the person to do that and nor does a book about romance and love need to do that.

A 14 year old can watch a makeup tutorial and still ace all her exams. An eight year old can say they want to be a YouTuber when he/she grows up but still end up as a doctor, nurse, pilot or whatever-the-hell-they-want-to-be once they hit working age. Liking YouTubers does not equal a lack of intelligence. Being a huge eff-off fan girl does not signal no interest in world politics. Reading a romance novel does not mean one doesn’t care about LGBT+ rights or the environment. It means you’ve chosen to pick up a book and read it. Simple as that.

Surely the journalist knows that teens are aware of the fact the fact their problems won’t be solved with the click of their fingers or by finding a hot boy who looks like Harry Styles. She writes: “For most depressed, socially anxious teen girls, it’s unlikely a cute boy will take them on a road trip, or into the forest, or on to the red carpet to solve all their woes”. First off, does Amelia Tait really believe teen girls think this will happen? Does she believe they think that’s how problems in life are solved? And secondly, a lot of the audience don’t want that to happen- a lot of the audience are confident, independent young women who know they don’t need a man to fix things.

It’s so easy for some of the mainstream media to go for YouTubers, especially those like Zoella who have essentially become famous for creating beauty and fashion videos. But why do they need to pick fault with every single thing? It seems Zoe can’t do right for doing wrong. And in a world where the life of a teenager is hard enough with pressures around body image, social media and growing rate of mental health problems, can’t we give them just a little bit of slack and not criticise their reading choices?

Thank you.


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