What is four years old, gets more than 4 million views a month, and gives dating advice from the Beastie Boys? Rookie magazine. The fourth, possibly final (and possibly best) “Rookie Yearbook” was published Tuesday, adding a new gem to Rookie’s stash.
The first three Rookie yearbooks were enchanting annual compilations of the best work from the online magazine. Edited by magazine founder Tavi Gevinson, the books were divided into monthly themes with articles, playlists, photo albums and interviews with creative role models. Most of these role models were noted female celebrities such as Kim Gordon, Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer and Sofia Coppola. The content is geared toward teenage girls, each month beginning with an Editor’s Letter by Gevinson, a teenage girl herself.
Gevinson is often more well-known than Rookie magazine itself. She started her first blog, “Style Rookie” when she was 11, attended fashion week at 13 and began Rookie at 15. When Rookie launched it already had the support and mentoring of media icons Ira Glass and Jane Pratt, and quickly accumulated a large, loyal fan base. Because of Gevinson’s celebrity (or maybe a lack of confidence that many critics attribute to her young age), many tend to view all of Rookie as Gevinson’s private diary. This is incorrect.
It is true, even in “Rookie Yearbook Four” there is somewhat of a narrative woven through her monthly editor letters. The beginning of “Yearbook Four” is when Gevinson graduates from high school and quickly moves to New York. As Gevinson transitions away from the teen years that Rookie is about, and into adulthood, she catalogues her emotional changes. “Rookie Yearbook Four” is a little different because of this, but it doesn’t drive the content of the book. The differences of “Yearbook Four” merely show the maturity of Rookie after four years of operation. While some of the letters include Gevinson’s new experiences as an independent, some of them are short and to-the-point in introducing the monthly theme. With this, “Yearbook Four” signifies it is aware of itself because it doesn’t explain itself extensively. Odds are that many readers have read the websites or old yearbooks as well.
“Yearbook Four” is mature because of itself, not because of Gevinson. Rightfully so, because Rookie has always stood for showing the complexities and multitudes of women, not singular or narrow points of view. I would say that “Yearbook Four,” if anything, includes more variety than past years. It includes more name-drops than the other books, with many celebrity interviews (Marina and the Diamonds, Ariana Grande, Laverne Cox), celebrity-written pieces (Lorde, Ezra Koenig) and even celebrity-conducted interviews (Ed Droste with Solange). This yearbook has many powerful, in-depth pieces on experiences with mental illness or sexual assault, in addition to shorter compilations of material. These collections of poems, diary entries, or letters to Zayn Malik represent Rookie best, by collaging the creations of many teenage girls in one place.
For me, Rookie has never been about how many “30-under-30” lists or magazine covers Gevinson has been on. It is about the reader submissions. Getting to read things that other teenage girls are experiencing and creating is what makes Rookie and “Yearbook Four” so special.