For book lovers, BookTube is the perfect amalgamation of book reading and discussion and YouTube. If you’ve dipped a toe in the world of YouTube, you know it’s an addictive one. For me, this all started with Christine Riccio aka polandbananasBOOKS and her Shadowhunters coverage, and then from there, it expanded throughout her large network of book-loving friends. This year at BookCon in New York City, I got to chat with BookTuber Natasha Polis aka Tashapolis about her YouTube life and its impact on her life.
While joining the world of YouTube may seem as easy as uploading a video, the path to success isn’t an easy one and there isn’t a single defined road. For Natasha, it was her passion for books and her love of fandom that lead her to YouTube.
Natasha: I mean, I’ve been a fangirl my whole life. I started with Twilight and I got really into the fansite world, like ‘His Golden Eyes”, “Twilightish”, all of those big sites, and they used to go to all the premieres and do all the press stuff. I saw that when I was in high school and I was like, ‘I would love to do that.’ That looks like so much fun and just be so involved in a fandom that you are able to have those privileges.
So I started with fansites, and then how I got into BookTubing is that Christine had put in an application to work for me, for this fansite called Page to Premiere, and I had already been watching her videos, she was one of the only people I think I had actually subscribed to on YouTube. I was like, “Oh, I need to interview her and train her and everything!” because I was so excited. I love her videos. So we just became fast friends doing that and I thought I could do this. I want to get out from behind all those written words on the computer and I would love to start making videos. So that’s how I transitioned.
Therese: And what was that transition like?
Natasha: A dream. I never imagined this. I never imagined that I would have young girls running up to me when I used to do that to like Robert Pattinson. It’s so much fun to have my own community and to have all these people that I can talk to and they know how I feel. If I feel sad about a TV show, or if I’m fangirling about a character or an author, I will always have someone to talk with. And they know me and I know them, because if they like that thing then I know what they like. I could never imagine this could have ever happened.
She takes her fame in stride, from the moment I met up with her to walk to a spot for our interview, we were stopped multiple times by young fans hoping to get to meet one of their favorite YouTubers. Natasha and the rest of the BookTubers generally attract a younger demographic of viewers, and it can be daunting to be seen as a role model to so many people.
Natasha: I want to be like a light in the world because there’s so much darkness. I mean, I went through a lot of tragic times in my life and being able to be an example of coming out of the tragedies, I think, I like to put my faith into that somehow. Just being a person who can give advice and being like, “I got through this, you can get through this too.”
I want my channel to be a nice happy place where young girls and boys can go and they know that they can get through whatever situation they can, and if they can’t, then there’s books and TV shows that will help them get through it. That’s what I did. I used Twilight as my clutch. That’s what got me through my tragedies when I was younger.
And while there are many YouTubers who choose to share every part of their life in their daily vlogs, Natasha doesn’t fall firmly into that camp. “I share so much of my life, but yet I do keep a lot of it really secret. There are not a lot of things that I share,” she said, although some of her most popular videos involve her vlogging and bonding with her audience on a personal level outside of books and other facets of pop culture.
Natasha: I get categorized in the BookTube community because all my friends are BookTubers, but when I started it I definitely didn’t want to do just books, because I love movies, I love TV shows, and I’m just a fangirl. That’s what I wanted to brand myself with, being a fangirl. And then along with that came my passion for fashion and all my personal vlogs, I didn’t realize I wanted to do vlogging every day but it’s so much fun and I love looking back on those memories.
One of her videos, titled “Never Been Kissed,” is her second most watched video. In the video, she opens up to her audience about her love life and garnered thousands of responses and comments from viewers who could relate to her personal experience.
Natasha: So, when I made that video, it had been trending a lot, like opening up and being more open with your audience, and I saw a couple YouTubers I’m subscribed to do a type of video like that. I just wanted to put that out there. I wanted to put it out that I had never been in a relationship before, or even had the opposite sex or any sex share their attraction with me. So I think I wanted to see if anyone else had a similar situation. And it’s really funny because all BookTube is single! Literally! People have had past relationships and stuff, but I don’t know anyone who has [one right now].
It was amazing the response that I got from that video. It was things I’ve never told you before. And it wasn’t just about my relationship, I talked about writing my book, not going to college, as well, and having my jobs that I’ve had. I never really talk about my other jobs because YouTube is the persona that I have.
As a viewer, this was a real turning point for me, watching Natasha’s videos. The way she laid it all out on the table was fearless, especially on a subject that can be sensitive or even shameful to some people. “It’s a bit awkward sometimes because I love romance so much, and I’m real-life shipped with Pierce [Brown],” she laughed, after addressing the response to her video.
Interestingly enough, although Christine’s videos are what brought me to Natasha’s page, it was her inadvertent connection to Pierce Brown, author of the Red Rising series, that really drew me to her channel. Publicly shipped by her viewers, Natasha has an impressive catalogue of video collaborations with the author hailed by Buzzfeed as “The Hottest Young Adult Author In The World.”
Her playlist, aptly titled The Pierce Brown Chronicles, is enough fodder for her fans to ship “Piersha” in real life. Her “Never Been Kissed” video also addresses her relationship with Brown, effectively putting any rumors to bed. “It’s been rather interesting. It’s followed me around for like three years. Followed us around, I guess,” Natasha reflected. “So I just wanted to put it out there, to be like, ‘Nothing ever happened.'”
But despite fans shipping it, it doesn’t seem like it has soured their friendship. Natasha talks fondly of Brown, mentioning that she’d talked to him recently while he was finishing writing Iron Gold, the two living forty minutes away from each other. And while Natasha was headed to New York for BookCon, Brown was busy at Phoenix Comicon — our original hometown con, and also the con where I previously interviewed Brown for his series.
As our interview concluded, Natasha and I walked out towards the exhibit floor where she was once again stopped by fans for photos and hugs. Having gone from fangirl to being fangirled hasn’t gone to her head as “internet fame” might have for others, and through her honest character and bright personality, it’s not hard to see why her fans love her.