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Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day

feliciaFrom online entertainment mogul, actress, and “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day, a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to Internet-stardom, and embracing her individuality to find success in Hollywood.

The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world…or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs.

After growing up in the south where she was “homeschooled for hippie reasons”, Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.

Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.

Hilarious and inspirational, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should embrace what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit.

Full confession time: I knew Felicia Day from her work on Buffy, but it was Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog that really made me into a Felicia-Fan. From there, I fell into the world of the Guild, Dollhouse, Eureka, Vaginal Fantasy and all things Geek & Sundry and beyond. Over time, my admiration for her work has only grown. You can imagine how happy I was to hear that she was writing a book. and I may or may not have bailed on my friends when my e-ARC was approved (I admit nothing).  

What did I learn from reading this book? So. Many. Things. I learned that the Felicia Day you see on screen is only one side of a savvy, intelligent and dedicated business person. The honesty in this book will blow you away; there’s no shying away from an awkward past, or from moments of anxiety and doubt. When we watch people on our favourite YouTube channels or listen to their voices every week on podcasts and programs, we develop a sense of connection with these people, right or wrong, and it was fascinating for me to reconcile the Felicia Day I thought I knew from her online and acting presence with the person writing the book. Sure, there were a lot of things that lined up, but did I know that she was a musical prodigy? That she was homeschooled? That she has a pretty wicked sense of humour (okay, if you’ve watched any of the Vaginal Fantasy hangouts, you’ll know that already) and that she is incredibly loyal?

“No matter how lonely and isolated and starved for connection you are, there’s always the possibility in the online world that you can find a place to be accepted, or discover a friendship that’s started with the smallest of interests but could last a lifetime.”

Day does not hold back about her love for the internet and what it’s meant to her throughout her life. From her early days online with ‘educational’ games to her first love of Ultima, to a present day devotion to Steam, the internet provided Day with opportunities that real-life just couldn’t manage: a connection with people who shared her interests, thought the way she did and who wanted to interact with her for the same reasons. As a homeschooled student, she needed the connection that the gaming forums gave to her. While she’s the first person to see the humour in some of those early years interactions, she also recognizes how her connection the internet has allowed her understand and embrace who she really is. I love that she has not only found her place online, but that she’s created multiple venues for other people to find and connect with others. Like her, I believe that there a wealth of untapped creativity just waiting to be discovered, and that the internet is the vehicle where we will discover The Next Big Thing.

When I look back on the book, I’m struck by a couple of things. Her honesty about her struggles with depression and anxiety is heartbreaking and inspiring in equal measures. She doesn’t try to hide the stress that’s inherent in starting something new when it is basically fuelled by your passion and not a lot of money, and the toll that it can take on you. When you consider that she and her colleagues managed to work through those times when she would rather be hiding out and that they continued to produce amazing work – it’s a telling statement to her determination and focus. Tied into this is her resolve over the situation with GamerGate and how she was personally affected. How did I not know about this? My gut feeling as I read about her experiences was that (a) I wanted to give her an awkward hug and (b) I wanted to let her know that her anxiety and her initial fear was totally justified. I felt that she was so hard on herself for retreating and wanting to keep the people around her safe, and I just wanted to tell her, “hey, you know what? When people are being jerks and threatening people you love, it’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to retreat until you figure out how you are going to deal with things. It doesn’t make you a bad person – it makes you human.” I think that’s the crux of it all – we often forget that these are human beings on our screens. When people are horrible and harmful towards them, they in turn have human reactions. That’s not to say that Day doesn’t speak out – she does, and she’s eloquent and heartfelt and powerful – but she’s allowed to have some personal feelings about the whole situation.

Finally, this may be the first “celebrity” style memoir that I’ve read in a while that stayed focused on the subject – while Day could have peppered her book with loads of famous names, she instead kept the book firmly centred on her basic premise: that her life is an example of how someone who might otherwise have felt lost but instead found her voice and her place online. Day has many famous friends from her work on TV and online, and could have loaded her book with famous friends; aside from a great intro by Joss Whedon and occasional in-context references, the privacy of her friends and family remains intact. The internet, for all its imperfections (and there are many) has extended the idea of what it means to be cool so that individuals who might have felt like outsiders growing up now find solace and peer groups from all over the world. I’ve developed incredible friendships from conversations that started on Twitter and continue to be amazed by the great people I meet through online connections. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) reminds us to find the joy in what we love, and that there are communities out there to support our interests —- and if you really want to, you can even create your own for others to enjoy as well.

“For the first time, everyone has a chance to have his or her voice heard, or to create a community around something they’re passionate about and connect with other people who share that passion. Best of all, it rewards people and ideas that never would have made it through the system and allows the unique and weird to flourish.”

The fab Felicia Day at BEA 2015 - clockwise, from top left holding a copy of Erin Bow's Scorpion Rules, talking to fans, graciously agreeing to a selfie!

The fab Felicia Day at BEA 2015 – clockwise, from top left holding a copy of Erin Bow’s Scorpion Rules, talking to fans, graciously agreeing to a selfie!

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) was provided by Simon & Schuster/Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. It is available for purchase NOW from your favourite independenton-line or chain bookstore. ISBN: 9781476785653, 272 pages. 

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