TenEighty asked a group of YouTubers to review Alfie Deyes’ debut publication The Pointless Book for the first ever TenEighty Book Club. (Hopefully it’ll become a regular feature, who knows?!) Here’s what they thought.
It seems like every prominent YouTuber is signing book deals these days: we eagerly await releases from Zoe Sugg and Carrie Hope Fletcher, while Hannah Hart’s success with My Drunk Kitchen continues in the US. The first book by a UK-based vlogger for us Brits is The Pointless Book by Alfie Deyes, which has maintained a top five bestseller spot on both the Amazon and Waterstones websites since its release on 4 September.
Online reviews have been mostly positive, despite what Joe Bishop at VICE may think. Nevertheless, there have been a fair few comparisons to Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal series. Here at TenEighty, we didn’t think it would be right to dive in and review the book without consulting the UK YouTube community first, so we got a small group of YouTubers together to share their thoughts.
“If I was an Alfie Deyes fan, I reckon I’d be happy with it,” says Ella Caney-Willis. “I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I have, nor did I expect the range of activities. It’s got word search – I didn’t expect a word search!”
Ella was worried that the book would be a rip off of Wreck This Journal but she feels the accompanying Pointless Blog app changes the tone of the book. “You get videos and the page lights up with Alfie’s notes,” she says. “It’s cool to see what he did on certain pages of the book. That’s good for his audience to see if they match up with him.”
Evan Edinger mostly agrees with Ella, however found some problems with the app. “Clearly PointlessBlog hates Americans!” he jokes. “I can’t download the app because I have my App Store set up to the US one.”
Nonetheless, Evan compliments the book for its range of activities. “Turning a page with my elbow was a personal highlight,” he says. “It’s like a challenge video in book form, so it’s essentially hours of YouTube content. If you’re a vlogger and you want to be like Alfie Deyes, he’s just given you the instruction manual.”
There is some debate about who the book is directly targeting. Gareth Howell believes that the book is more for children under the age of 12. “An activity book is more for children,” he says. “I don’t think it’s catered to 13-17 year olds.
“I hadn’t seen any of the prerelease stuff leading up to it, so I’m surprised it’s more activity-based rather than textual,” he adds.
Dan Stokes echoes this: “A lot of Alfie’s viewers who buy this book may feel patronised. Most 15 and 16 year olds are intelligent – to get a book telling you to put chewing gum on one of the pages? I think they’d feel a little bit cheated.”
Luke Yohn believes The Pointless Book isn’t catered for older members of Alfie’s audience. “I’m sure there are a lot of 18+ people watching him. I don’t think they’d be interested in this book,” Luke says. “He could’ve written a book that speaks to both his younger and older viewers.”
As an 18-year-old female, Ella is the closest to Alfie’s target demographic out of the group. She agrees with Gareth, Dan and Luke but still finds the book enjoyable. “I don’t know if I’d necessarily pay for it myself, but it’s something nice for his audience to have,” she says. “And the app totally sold it for me.”
Unlike the others, Russ Haynes believes the book is targeted towards the right demographic. “If it’s aimed at men in their 40s with kids, I don’t think they’ve got the marketing right,” he says. “But I imagine it’s aimed at young girls who watch Alfie’s stuff. Personally I think it’s brilliant.
“He knows his audience, he knows what he’s aiming for and I think he’s got it right,” he continues. “It’s not a sophisticated book and it’s not going to change the world, but it’s a simple book that will engage his YouTube audience.”
It’s at this point the discussion turns to YouTubers releasing books and how to get it right. Overall, Dan is not impressed by Alfie’s efforts. “I was expecting something more from him,” he says. “If I was the book boss and said to Alfie, ‘I’ve got a great idea for a book’, I wouldn’t tell him to make an activity book, I’d say, ‘Tell us about your quirky YouTube life.’ He’s been there from the beginning; I’m sure he’s got loads of stories.
“If I was in his position I don’t think I’d release this book,” he adds. “I think I’d be happier releasing something more substantial.”
Gareth suggests that an autobiography about Alfie’s life may have been more appropriate. “I think people would be interested to know about his life,” he says. “That’s what his vlogs are about and that’s what he does on YouTube. It’s what’s got him really successful.”
Evan feels differently, highlighting that branding plays a role for YouTubers releasing books. “Not everyone is a novelist. If you’re going to write a book, it should be the same branding that you use,” he says.
“My audience are use to me doing comedy, so maybe I’d write a book about that,” he adds. “Alfie’s audience is used to stuff like this, so I feel this was expected. It’s very niche, but it’s interesting that he was able to come up with something like this that works.”
Russ agrees with Evan, commenting that the book lives up to the Alfie Deyes brand. “It’s simple, non-offensive and aimed at an audience that don’t want to think – that’s not meant offensively,” he explains. “His audience is just at an age where they are going through so much, they just want something where they can escape and have a bit of fun. It’s escapism for the young developing mind of today’s youth.”
Despite varying opinions on the target demographic of the book, everyone (apart from Dan) agrees it’s enjoyable. “It’s actually very entertaining, for 10 minutes,” says Luke. “But that’s OK, because you can pick it up every day and be entertained for those moments.”
“I think it’s something I’d like to do with friends. It’s something fun to talk about with them,” says Ella.
“It is pointless, but in a way that I think a lot of people would enjoy,” says Evan.
Either way, Dan still isn’t convinced. “Calling a pointless thing ‘pointless’ doesn’t make it not pointless,” he says. But surely that’s the point, Dan? Surely that’s the point.
(L to R: Dan Stokes, Russ Haynes, Luke Yohn, Evan Edinger, Ella Caney-Willis, Gareth Howell)