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Middle Grade Readers, Realistic Fiction

MY LIFE AS A YOUTUBER (MY LIFE #7) by Janet Tashjian

I originally read the first three My Life As A… series in 2013 because my 9-year-old daughter read them, enjoyed them and recommended them to me.  I recently picked up My Life as a Youtuber (#7 in the series) on a lark at the library, curious to see how the series was doing. I was pleased to discover that the story still reflects the positive aspects of my first impressions of the series: (1) fun, easy read; and (2) hijinks that culminate in a new insight for Derek on who he wants to be as a person.

All the books are narrated by Derek. Derek is your average 12-year-old boy. He is basically kind, has a good heart, dreads school at the end of summer vacation and often lacks the ability to project the negative consequences of his imaginative, sometimes well-intentioned, plans. In this installment Derek is excited to take a new extra-curricular class on making youtube videos from a local comedian who successfully runs his own youtube channel.

Derek experiments with some different ideas and techniques in order to create his own youtube videos. In the process he and his friends discover both the dangers and the realities of posting any creative work online. When Derek chooses to produce several videos that violate the ethical rules and standards he’s been given in order to boost his viewer and subscriber numbers there are life-changing consequences.

This storyline uses young people’s (especially tweenagers’) fascination with and desire to become famous youtubers as its foundation, making the story immediately accessible to readers in 3rd – 5th grade. I appreciate the fact that the author allows Derek to make some common 12-year-old mistakes along his journey to misguided youtube aspirations and allows there to be natural consequences for those mistakes. Derek’s experience clearly illustrates the responsibility inherent in posting material on the internet without being preachy to the reader. I also like the fact that Derek’s parents hold him accountable for his choices while remaining supportive of his overall growth as he moves through dealing with the consequences, gaining insight into how his choices can affect others.

The only thing that was somewhat disappointing for me was that Jake Tashjian’s illustrations of words in the margins aren’t really effective in this story. In the first three books of the series these illustrations added another dimension to the story without detracting from it. That is not the case in #7. They add nothing to the characters or the plot in this installment.

My Life as a Youtuber is a worthwhile addition to the My Life series. This is a great choice for middle-elementary-age readers. Using it as a read-aloud at home or in the classroom could also provide a perfect springboard for discussions about youtube and the internet. In my personal experience, having these kinds of important discussions as part of ‘story’ has a higher likelihood of taking root in a young person’s consciousness than when it is done in the context of delivering ‘rules.’

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