Returning to Rookie

In seventh grade, the “popular girls” in my class discovered a groundbreaking life-hack: rolling up the waistbands of their plaid uniform skirts to make them appear shorter. Despite a shared hatred for the knee-length requirement, I never participated. A self-identified outcast, I protested their hack in any way I could. I was also terrified of getting in trouble.

In 2011, Rookie Mag published an interview with an eighth-grade Elle Fanning, and when asked about her Catholic school uniform, she explained that while other girls in her class got in trouble for their short skirts, she decided that “the longer plaid skirts look sort of cuter in a weird way.” When I read that line, it became clear that Rookie was exactly what I needed.   

Rookie was instantly a revelation to my long-skirted twelve-year-old self. It celebrated non-mainstream style, navigated everything from self-harm to crushes, and let young women speak about their own experiences. Being just a couple years younger than Rookie’s founder, Tavi Gevinson. The website was almost solely responsible for the beginnings of my feminism, sense of style, and taste in movies. Yet, the frequency with which I traffic the site has dwindled over time. I reject the notion that I’ve “grown out of it.” Instead, I believe that we’re growing together, and we just need to check in with each other less. Rookie was critical in forming my cultural foundation, and now I can branch out and see what else is out there.

However, when Tavi instagrammed about an upcoming Rookie essay collection, I immediately pre-ordered it. Rookie on Love (2018) is a collection of 45 essays tied together by the theme of love. Big-ticket contributors like Janet Mock and Hilton Als unsurprisingly deliver poignant pieces on personal growth, but real moments of unexpected brilliance also shine through in the reader-submitted pieces. This contrast of high and low brow is essential to Rookie’s ethos, one where every voice is worthy of being listened to. The collection’s content ranges from tips on how to confess to your crush to sharp poems considering the heart’s function to wrenching accounts of love lost.

One of my favorite pieces, “Willis” by Durga Chew-Bose, is an essay about the heartbreak that comes from loving a dog. The piece is a culmination of everything that the book offers. Chew-Bose’s tone is both gushing and intelligent, and her prose is accessible yet eloquent.

This winter, in my first year of college, facing the trials of coming home and then returning to school, this book was a perfect security blanket. Not only are its pages filled with warmth, but returning to Rookie allowed me to return to early adolescence. It reminded me of when Rookie was the only one who “understood me.” A companion, confidant, and best friend, it was nice to see her again.

I unexpectedly received a bouquet of roses from a hometown friend last Valentine’s day. When the petals started to shrivel, fall, I knew the perfect place to sandwich them was inside the pages of Rookie on Love. – JR Atkinson

JR Atkinson is a freshman at Wesleyan University, from Chicago, IL. She is planning on majoring in English and Film.

Rookie on Love (2018)
Edited by Tavi Gevinson
Publisher: Razorbill
288 pp.