The thing about reading Rookie is that you start out looking at pictures of shoes and you end up being better informed about the state of homophobia in modern America and the complex psychology surrounding eating disorders.
Giving a slick summary of what Rookie is or does is difficult, if only because it feels like it has bought a new genre with it into the world. A magazine by and for teenage girls, it is best contextualised as the pop cultural heir of the fanzines popularised during the heyday of punk. Well, that and the high-production-quality fashion magazines like Teen Vogue. And perhaps the ‘Dear Abby’ advice columns. The Rookie Yearbooks (1, 2 and 3 – all available from Turnaround) collect the best features from the online magazine into one, beautifully bound volume, the ‘cut and paste’ aesthetic style of which simultaneously references the frenetic, collaged art of punk and a current teenage girls Instagram page.
Regular features such as, ‘Literally The Best Thing Ever,’ where a different person every month tells you about a band or book that they love, make accessible to any reader the sort of unaffected, breathless excitement that it’s easy to let subside when you are no longer a teenager. Or even when you are a teenager, if you get too caught up in trying to seem cool or knowing.
I originally planned to write a piece about how Rookie isn’t for cynics, but having since read the feature, ‘How To Stop Feeling The Golden Age Has Passed’ – tbh, this would make a good subtitle for the whole magazine- I now think that Rookie IS for cynics, just not for those who want to stay that way. Rookie is truly one of those rare pop cultural happenings that breaks through any lingering ‘coulda woulda shoulda – if only things had been different ’cultural miasma. Spend an hour poring over it and you’ll leave feeling like art and music and politics are as exciting and relevant and vital as they’ve ever been, and that you are a part of it all and should really get cracking on that creative project you’ve been putting off.
Also – there are stickers! I’m still not over this even though it’s been a few months since I first saw the physical copies of Rookie Yearbook 3. A beautifully produced magazine about politics, sexism, art, music and books – complete with a sheet of quality gemstone and lipstick stickers. Finally!
I have tried to have conversations about this with the teenage girls in my life (people I now think of as being a part of the ‘post-rookie’ generation). These conversations will always go roughly the same way.
“In my day,” I will say, “it felt like you had to decide whether you were a girl who wanted to know about what Barack Obama’s second term could mean for wider cultural perceptions of race OR whether you were going to be excited about Taylor Swift. Literally nothing I ever read told me that you could be both!”
Teenage girl looks a bit confused and returns to flipping seamlessly between an article about Indy comics artist Daniel Clownes and an article about lipstick in the latest Rookie Yearbook.
(Rookie Yearbook Three is published by Razorbill, £19.99, p/b, 9781595147943 and available from Turnaround here)