How To Be a Teenage Girl

If you haven’t yet discovered Tavi Gevinson and her webzine Rookie, it’s time you did.  If you know any teenage girls, you need to send them a link to Rookie, because every teenage girl needs to think about the stuff Tavi Gevison and her writers think about.

In her original editor’s letter, Tavi explains that she did NOT conceive of Rookie as

your guide to Being a Teen. It is not a pamphlet on How to Be a Young Woman…Rookie is a place to make the best of the beautiful pain and cringe-worthy awkwardness of being an adolescent girl. When it becomes harder to appreciate these things, we also have good plain fun and visual pleasure. When you’re sick of having to be happy all the time, we have lots of eye-rolling rants, too.

Despite this disavowal, I wish every teenage girl I know would take Rookie as a guide.  Exhibit A: this article entitled “An Actually Useful Article About Dressing for a Party” and subtitled “…without any mention of your body shape or your style personality.”

Gevinson has been clear that Sassy magazine – a fond memory to women in my age bracket – is a major influence.  I loved Sassy, but what she’s doing is so much better.  Sassy was fun, and smart, and acknowledged that some teenage girls have sex.  It was revolutionary, but it was of its time (and it spawned, indirectly, the horror that was Jane magazine.)  Rookie takes what Sassy did and makes it fresh, immediate and interactive, which is exactly what an Internet mag should do.

(The fact that Rookie makes regular references to River Phoenix and [see video above] Stevie Nicks doesn’t hurt, though.  Do teenage girls know who these people are?  Is Gevinson really a 43-year-old woman in 16-year-old eye makeup?)

The mag posts three times a day and has monthly themes like “Transformation” and “Power”.  Sound all second-wave feminist to you?  Well, yes, but so much more.  For example, March’s theme was “Exploration” and included articles like “Literally the Best Thing Ever: National Geographic” and “How to Look Like You Weren’t Just Crying in Less than Five Minutes.”

The ONLY reason I wish I were fifteen again is so that this magazine could rock my world as hard as it should.

I know a lot of teenage girls.  Wait – I shouldn’t say that.  I don’t know them.  I spend a few hours a week with them for fifteen weeks, and maybe fifteen weeks more if they like me enough to look me up again.  They mystify me and enthrall me and make me crazy.  Why are they walking around wearing things that resemble pants but ARE NOT PANTS?  Why do they all, down to the very last one, insist on straightening their lovely frizzy hair?  Why are they all reading those awful Twilight books or, even worse, watching those awful Twilight movies because reading the books is too hard?  Why are they dating that boy?  Yes, that one, missy – he’s just going to drag you down!  And while you’re at it, do up your sweater!

And then I read Rookie.  I know some of the girls I know are reading it too.  It reminds me that teenage girls are just amazing.  Even the ones who aren’t reading it…even the ones who wouldn’t like it if they did read it…even the ones who are wearing those things that ARE NOT PANTS…they’re amazing.  There’s so much going ON when you’re a teenage girl.  Life is so full of STUFF.

No way I’d go back there again.  But Rookie is a delightful, painful, funny travelogue.  Spread the word.


3 thoughts on “How To Be a Teenage Girl

  1. Rookie sounds very interesting and just the kind of resource that should be of great help to people in the troublesome throes of the child-adult transition. I am not myself a teenager but I am a writer who is nearing completion of a trilogy (as yet unpublished) called The Forces of Formentera which may be of interest to your readers as the main protagonist is a 16-year-old girl trying to come to terms with both her burgeoning sexuality and the awakening of her psychic abilities.

    The trilogy is richly textured and does not fit into one particular genre – on the one hand, it is a page-turning supernatural thriller with elements of fantasy, on the other it tells a rites-of-passage story which is firmly rooted in the real world. A number of themes relevant to modern adolescents are addressed and the response of teenage test-readers to the original one-volume novel was extremely positive, with comments such as: “Maggie’s character seems very real and similar to teenagers today, including how she felt about love and relationships… The sexual parts felt very real and truthful and insightful to how teenagers behave and feel…”

    For more information about (and comments on) the trilogy plus the first six chapters (complete) of Book One: Sekhufu’s Stone, your readers should go to:

    If people think they would like to read these books (two are complete and ready for publication, the third is partly written and will be ready later in 2012), I hope they will make their wishes known by posting their own comments.

    I wish Tavi Gevinson and her webzine Rookie every success!


  2. I teach high school Spanish at a pretty small school. I wrote this site on the board and put a note next to it that read “Just for girls!”. So many of them came up to me the next day and said they went there and found some interesting things they really enjoyed. So, thank you! Now my girls think I’m quite “in touch” with the youth of today…. I thought briefly of keeping you a secret and claiming complete coolness for myself, but I sang your praises as I do again here. Thank you!


  3. I am late to the party as I have been “backlogging” posts to read later and just got to this one. Thankful I didn’t just delete it. Rookie is amazing. Your post was amazing. As a former teenage girl (long, long ago) and a mother of a future teenage girl (I have a decade to go) and a teacher and coach of teenage (and young twenty-something) girls, this was great! Thanks for sharing!


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