This was a hard one to get through for me. I picked this book up because I saw it on a few book instagram pages, and I liked the cover. At the time, I saw that it was a diary-like collection of essays, poetry and photography, though I did not know who the author, Connor Franta, was. For those who don’t know, he is a famous YouTuber who has millions of followers on various social media outlets. I am writing this review with the disclaimer that I have never watched any of Franta’s YouTube videos, so this book was my first exposure to him and his work. I was looking forward to a thought-provoking mix of visuals, poetry, and reflective essays. However, this book fell flat for me. Perhaps Franta’s observations would be revelatory for a younger reader, maybe someone in their teens or very early twenties, but for me, they seemed like obvious, unoriginal clichés. Yes, we should be kind to other people and compliment them instead of tearing them down. Yes, we should spend time with our friends and family rather than getting too caught up in technology. Yes, we should learn to love ourselves first and that will drastically improve our relationships with others. These are all observations that Franta makes in this book that seemed like very obvious platitudes to me.
Franta’s writing did not flow for me. His poetry was lacking, and at times, very bland. The entire book read like a diary of unconnected, random thoughts. The essays were rambling, self-serving, and at times preachy. The stories did not engage me emotionally, even the ones about his breakup, which seemed to be a recent and traumatic experience in his life. The chapters on his bout with depression were a little more captivating, but he only skimmed the surface on the topic, leaving me wanting more depth. I found it difficult to care about Franta’s stories, because he did not dig deep enough into them to give me a real sense of his struggles. From this book, it is difficult to believe that he has faced any real, true hardship in his life, making his reflections seem whiny and unrelatable.
I apologize for the harsh review if you are a Franta fan. Obviously he has a very large following, and so many must find him compelling. For you, this book may provide more insight into his life that may make it much more captivating than it was for me. And all critiques of the writing aside, it is admirable that Franta is attempting self-reflection here, pondering his journey and attempting to learn how to live a rewarding and fulfilling life. One positive thing I will say is that all of the photography in the book is beautiful. If nothing else, I would pick this book up to take a look at the photographs interspersed throughout. They are lovely. As a photographer, I am convinced that Franta succeeds. But as a writer and a poet, not quite.