TIME Books

Fashion Blogger Zoella Admits She Did Not Write Girl Online On Her Own

YouTube blogger Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella, poses during a photocall for her debut novel "Girl Online" in London, Nov. 24, 2014.
YouTube blogger Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella, poses during a photocall for her debut novel "Girl Online" in London, Nov. 24, 2014. Luke MacGregor—Reuters

The 24-year-old YouTube and blogging star had "help" with her best-selling debut novel

Zoe Sugg, the British YouTube and blogging star whose novel is at No.9 in the New York Times Young Adult Best Sellers list, has admitted that she did not write the book on her own.

The 24-year old writer, who also uses the name Zoella, has had record sales of her recently published first novel, Girl Online, but the Sunday Times of London revealed that the writing bore similarities to another author, Siobhan Curham.

Sugg first rose to fame with her beauty and make-up tutorials, which she began producing in 2009. It wasn’t long before she was attracting millions of views and fans, many of whom snapped up her print debut. But the news that Sugg — whose first-week book sales eclipsed the first-week sales from the debuts of J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown and EL James — received help writing her book has prompted surprise and even outrage online. Several social media users have called Sugg a “fraud“. As one commenter on Twitter put it: “Ghostwriters should be banned. If you’re not smart enough to write a book, admit it. Don’t take the credit for someone else’s work #zoella.”

Sugg’s publisher Penguin issued a statement on Monday. “The factual accuracy of the matter is simply that Zoe Sugg did not write Girl Online on her own, ” the statement says, “For her first novel, Girl Online, Zoe has worked with an expert editorial team to help her bring to life her characters and experiences in a heartwarming and compelling story.”

Celebrity writers often work with ghostwriters when they publish a memoir or even a novel. The New York Times noted in 2011 how celebrities such as the Kardashians, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Hilary Duff had all published novels, in part because, “Like a branded fragrance or clothing line, the novel — once quaintly considered an artistic endeavor sprung from a single creative voice — has become another piece of merchandise stamped with the name of celebrities, who often pass off the book as their work alone despite the nearly universal involvement of ghostwriters. And the publishing industry has been happy to oblige.”

Though many in publishing and media are aware of how commonplace ghostwritten works are, readers — particularly young readers like Sugg’s fans — might not realize that the blogger had help with her novel. After all, it’s only Sugg’s name that appears on the cover of Girl Online. Yet, in the book’s acknowledgements, Sugg writes, “I want to thank everyone at Penguin for helping me put together my first novel, especially [author and editorial director at Penguin U.K.] Amy Alward and [Young Adult author] Siobhan Curham, who were with me every step of the way.”

It is Curham — who has published more than half a dozen novels under her own name — who has been suggested as the likely ghostwriter for Girl Online. Though Curham did not respond to TIME’s email request for an interview, the Sunday Times‘ story outlined how she wrote a now-deleted blog post in August on what it was like “to write an 80,000-word novel in six weeks.” Many now suspect the post was a reference to Girl Online.

Sugg herself responded to the controversy on Sunday night, saying in a statement posted to Twitter:

“Thanks for all the positive feedback about Girl Online and for the doubters out there, of course I was going to have help from Penguin’s editorial team in telling my story, which I talked about from the beginning. Everyone needs help when they try something new. The story and the characters of Girl Online are mine. I want to thank all of you who have taken time to support the book.”

Considering that Sugg’s statement was favorited and re-tweeted more than 15,000 times it seems likely that her stable of young fans are sticking by her. That not only bodes well for Girl Online‘s continued sales, but also for the book’s follow-up, which is due out in 2015. Despite the current controversy, it seems unlikely that Zoella will be haunted by the ghostwriter revelation.

TIME Opinion

Girl Gone Wild: The Rise of the Lone She-Wolf

Fox Searchlight

A woman on a solitary journey used to be seen as pitiful, vulnerable or scary. Not any more.

The first few seconds of Wild sound like sex. You hear a woman panting and moaning as the camera pans across the forest, and it seems like the movie is starting off with an outdoor quickie. But it’s not the sound of two hikers hooking up: it’s the sound of Cheryl Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon, climbing a mountain all by herself.

It lasts only a moment, but that first shot contains everything you need to know about why Wild is so important. It’s a story of a woman who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail for 94 days in the wake of her mother’s death, but more than that, it’s a story of a woman who is no longer anything to anybody. We’re so used to seeing women entangled with other people (with parents, with men, with children, in neurotic friendships with other women), that it’s surprising, almost shocking, to see a woman who is gloriously, intentionally, radically alone.

When it comes to women onscreen, the lone frontier is the last frontier. It’s no big deal to see women play presidents, villains, baseball players, psychopaths, superheroes, math geniuses, or emotionally stunted losers. We’ve even had a female Bob Dylan. But a woman, alone, in the wilderness, for an entire movie? Not until now.

Which is unfair, considering all the books and movies dedicated to the often-tedious excursions of solitary men, from Henry David Thoreau to Jack Kerouac to Christopher McCandless. Audiences have sat through hours of solo-dude time in critically acclaimed movies like Castaway, Into the Wild, Life of Pi, 127 Hours, and All is Lost. America loves a Lone Ranger so much, even Superman worked alone.

In fact, the only thing more central to the American canon than a solitary guy hanging out in the woods is a guy on a quest (think Huckleberry Finn or Moby Dick). The road narrative may be the most fundamental American legend, grown from our history of pilgrimage and Western expansion. But adventure stories are almost always no-girls-allowed, partly because the male adventurer is usually fleeing from a smothering domesticity represented by women. In our collective imaginations, women don’t set out on a journey unless they’re fleeing from something, usually violence. As Vanessa Veselka writes in her excellent essay on female road narratives in The American Reader: “A man on the road is caught in the act of a becoming. A woman on the road has something seriously wrong with her. She has not ‘struck out on her own.’ She has been shunned.”

MORE: The Top 10 Best Movies of 2014

The ‘loner in nature’ and the ‘man on the road’ are our American origin stories, our Genesis and Exodus. They’re fables of an American national character which, as A.O. Scott pointed out in his The New York Times essay on the death of adulthood in American culture, has always tended towards the boyish. Wild is the first big movie– or bestselling book, for that matter–to re-tell that central American story with a female protagonist.

But Wild is just the most visible example of what’s been a slow movement towards loner ladies onscreen. Sandra Bullock’s solo spin through space last year in Gravity was the first step (although her aloneness was accidental, and it was more a survival story than road narrative). Mia Wasikowska’s long walk across Australia in Tracks this year was another. But Wild, based on Strayed’s bestselling memoir and propelled by Witherspoon’s star power, is the movie that has the best shot at moving us past the now-tired “power woman” towards a new kind of feminist role model: the lone female.

Because for women, aloneness is the next frontier. Despite our chirpy boosting of “independent women” and “strong female leads,” it’s easy to forget that women can never be independent if we’re not allowed to be alone.

For men, solitude is noble: it implies moral toughness, intellectual rigor, a deep connection with the environment. For women, solitude is dangerous: a lone woman is considered vulnerable to attacks, pitiful for her lack of male companionship, or threatening to another woman’s relationship. We see women in all kinds of states of loneliness–single, socially isolated, abandoned–but almost never in a state of deliberate, total aloneness.

Not to mention the fact that women’s stories are almost always told in the context of their relationships with other people. Even if you set aside romance narratives, the “girl group” has become the mechanism for telling the stories of “independent” women– that is, women’s stories that don’t necessarily revolve around men. Think Sex & The City, Steel Magnolias, A League of Their Own, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Girls: if a woman’s not half of a couple, she must be part of a gaggle.

When Cheryl Strayed describes her experience of “radical aloneness,” she’s talking about being completely cut off from human contact–no cell phone, no credit card, no GPS. But her aloneness is also radical in that it rejects the female identity that is always viewed through the lens of a relationship with someone else. To be alone, radically alone, is to root yourself in your own life, not the role you play in other people’s lives. Or, as Strayed’s mother Bobbi wistfully puts it, “I always did what someone else wanted me to do. I’ve always been someone’s daughter or mother or wife. I’ve never just been me.”

MORE: The Top 10 Best Movie Performances of 2014

And that’s the difference between aloneness and independence. The “independent woman” is nothing new– if anything, it’s become a tired catchphrase of a certain kind of rah-rah feminism. “Independence” implies a relationship with another thing, a thing from which you’re severing your ties. It’s inherently conspicuous, even performative. Female independence has become such a trope that it’s become another role for women to play: independent career woman, independent post-breakup vixen, independent spitfire who doesn’t care what anyone thinks. And usually, that “independence” is just a temporary phase before she meets a guy at the end of the movie who conveniently “likes a woman who speaks her mind.”

Aloneness is more fundamental, and more difficult. It involves cultivating a sense of self that has little to do with the motherhood, daughterhood, wifehood or friendship that society calls “womanhood.” When interviewed by the Hobo Times about being a “female hobo,” Strayed says: “Women can’t walk out of their lives. They have families. They have kids to take care of.” Aloneness then, isn’t just a choice to focus on one’s self– it’s also a rejection of all the other social functions women are expected to perform.

In 1995, when Strayed hiked for 94 days, that would have been hard. In 2014, it’s even harder. Thanks to the internet, our world is more social now than ever before, and it’s even harder to escape other people. But aloneness is at the root of real independence, it’s where self-reliance begins and ends. So these days, if you want to be independent, maybe you can start by trying to be alone.

Read next: Reese Witherspoon Isn’t Nice or Wholesome in Wild, and That’s What Makes It Great

TIME movies

True Detective Director to Film Adaptation of Stephen King’s It

Stephen King's "It" (1990)
Stephen King's "It" (1990) Warner Bros.

The plan is to split 'It' into two films

It looks like Pennywise the Clown will soon be back to make audiences fear clowns for years to come.

Speaking to Vulture on Dec. 4, producer Dan Lin confirmed that True Detective director Cary Fukunaga is on board for a new adaptation of Stephen King’s It.

“The idea is to start official prep in March for a summer shoot,” Lin, a producer on The Lego Movie, told Vulture.

However, Lin said It was too big to keep to one movie, and so the plan is to split It into two films (which, if Lin takes inspiration from Peter Jackson, will turn into a trilogy culminating in It: A Pennywise for Your Thoughts).

Lin only confirmed Fukunaga’s involvement for the first film, but did say he is working to sign on the director for the second one as well.

The two-part film does have some precedent in the case of It, however. The original 1986 novel has only seen one other major adaptation, a two-part miniseries on ABC that aired in 1990. That version is particularly memorable for Tim Curry’s horrifying portrayal of Pennywise the Clown, and should serve as a standard-bearer for clown-based scares as Fukunaga and Lin prep their version.

More so than signing on Fukunaga for both parts, Lin has been most concerned with earning the approval of one man: Stephen King.

“The most important thing is that Stephen King gave us his blessing,” Lin said. “We didn’t want to make this unless he felt it was the right way to go, and when we sent him the script, the response that Cary got back was, ‘Go with God, please! This is the version the studio should make.’ So that was really gratifying.”

This article originally appeared on Entertainment Weekly

TIME Books

J.K. Rowling’s Christmas Present to You Is More Harry Potter Stories

Author J.K. Rowling attends a photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Sept. 27, 2012 in London. Ben Pruchnie—Getty Images

'Tis the season to be Harry

On the first day of Christmas, J.K. Rowling will give to you: new Harry Potter material. On the second day of Christmas, she’ll give you some more. And so on, through the 12 days leading up to Christmas Eve.

The author announced the new stories in a newsletter to Pottermore members, explaining that each new installment would be posted at 1 pm GMT (8am ET) every day beginning Dec. 12. The email promises “wonderful writing by J.K. Rowling in Moments from Half-Blood Prince, shiny gold Galleons and even a new potion or two.”

MORE: The Top 10 YA Books of 2014

One story will reportedly center on Draco Malfoy, Harry’s nemesis. In the spirit of the holiday season, maybe he’ll get a little redemption, Ebenezer Scrooge-style.

[Daily Telegraph]

Read next: J.K. Rowling Reveals Her Dream Job If She Weren’t A Writer

TIME movies

Peter Pan Live‘s Allison Williams Joins a Long Tradition: Women Playing Pan

Peter Pan
Pauline Chase in a theatre production of 'Peter Pan' in 1855 Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The boy who won't grow up has rarely been played by a real boy

It’s pretty much the single most important plot point in Peter Pan: the main character will, in the words of one of the signature songs from the musical based on his story, “stay a boy forever.”

Except that he hasn’t. When Allison Williams—the actress best known, appropriately, for her role on Girls—takes to the skies Thursday night for the live televised version of the play, she’ll be joining a long line of grown women who have played the ever-youthful boy.

In fact, it’s been an even century since Nina Boucicault played the starring role in the original 1904 London production, which came to New York the following year with Maude Adams in the lead. As Slate has reported, there were several reasons to cast women in the role, from the logistics of dealing with child-labor laws to the thought that an adult man wouldn’t seem boyish enough and a real boy wouldn’t be capable. Furthermore, casting an adult as Peter meant the child actors around her could be relatively older too. And the actresses cast as Peter were fully on board with the decision: TIME reported in 1950 that, in her day, Adams would leave the theater in costume, so as not to let young fans know she was a grown-up and a woman.

Other grown women followed her in the stage role, like Marilyn Miller, Eva Le Gallienne and Jean Arthur.

When the musical version of the play arrived in 1954, the tradition—complete with music suited for a female singer—continued. Mary Martin quickly came to be a favorite, and is still associated with the role to this day. “She looks as boyish as can be expected of any grownup of the opposite sex,” TIME noted a review of the Broadway production.

There has, however, been a truly noteworthy deviation from the norm: Disney’s 1953 animated version, not constrained by the demands of live human actors, was able to do what no play could. In that movie Peter is voiced by child actor Bobby Driscoll.

TIME movies

Have Young Adult Adaptations Jumped the Shark?


Eventually, the climate of the world will change again, and the interest in dystopia will transition into something else

This post originally appeared on Consequence of Sound.

In the current Hollywood climate, the lust for franchises is at an all-time high. It’s a logical enough response to both the difficulties found in getting the average American viewer into a theater in the past few years, and the never-brighter future of the new, globalized audience for Hollywood tentpole features. In both cases, name recognition is the most logical (if not necessarily the most ideal) means to get people back in seats. For all the theatrical gimmickry that chains have rolled out in recent years (dine-in screenings, electric recliners, flight simulator-style seating), there’s perhaps nothing more verifiable when it comes to packing a house than a continuation of another film that people saw and enjoyed. Consider that of 2014’s top 10 highest-grossing films so far, as of this writing, six are sequels. Of the other four, you have two modern reboots of famed existing characters (Maleficent, Godzilla), a new entry into an existing franchise model (Guardians of the Galaxy), and The LEGO Movie, a surprisingly enjoyable film that’s nevertheless still based on a line of toys.

In the midst of Hollywood’s seemingly endless franchise hunt, one of the most prevalent trends of the past decade has been the renewed interest in the constant adaptation of popular young adult novels. It’s a logical enough approach; rather than greenlighting a film that’ll ideally spawn sequels, you pick up a property with a built-in following and a pre-released series of follow-up installments. Grab the next Hunger Games, and you have three or four movies ready to go from day one. In a recent article, I addressed just how many studios are trying to do exactly that, the latest Hollywood ideal being the next hot dystopian epic to follow Hunger Games, or the more recent successes of The Maze Runner and Divergent.

But what’s perhaps even more interesting than the handful of successfully launched YA adaptations in recent years is the massive volume of failures surrounding them. Vulture explored this question in brief last year, before the runaway success of Catching Fire, again primarily touching more heavily on the films that worked than those that didn’t. At one point, they quote YA publisher Ben Schrank, who explains that, “The fact that there are more people writing better books for young people than ever before, combined with a culture where fewer and fewer people think of themselves as old, makes over-saturation in the immediate future seem unlikely.” But this proliferation of books doesn’t necessarily mean that their popularity will translate; a book engenders a certain kind of more dedicated fandom by dint of its ability to establish a universe in far greater detail than the average 90-minute to two-hour film can muster.

So, back to the question at hand: why have so many adaptations failed? Vulture cites momentum at one point, which could explain Divergent and Maze Runner, especially the former; the market seems to be bullish on YA dystopian adaptations featuring popular young actresses in layered roles with peculiar first names for the time being. But it doesn’t entirely account for the phenomenon. After all, lest we forget (more on that momentarily), before Hunger Games it was Twilight. And it’s not as though studios didn’t try and fling their bodies onto that rapidly accelerating gravy train as well. But the fantasy market didn’t prove so lucrative. Between the time of the first Twilight film’s release in November 2008 and its conclusion with the underrated Breaking Dawn Part 2 in 2012, studios released at least seven other franchise hopefuls with YA pedigrees. Only one was sequelized, and even then, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters underperformed in theaters last summer.

Even dystopia isn’t a complete guarantee; witness duds like The Host, another Stephenie Meyer offering that lacked source material for additional installments but still lent studios a sense of optimism. Or, more recently, Jeff Bridges’ long-gestating production of The Giver, as canonical a YA text as you can find in the present era, and a film which grossed less than $50 million. Films like The Giver and last year’s Ender’s Game aimed squarely for the YA audience, adult and young adult alike, and were based on classic novels that frequently appear on various schools’ English class reading lists, and yet both underperformed to the point where sequels are uncertain, verging on unlikely for the time being.

It’s curious to consider the string of flops in a few different respects, and one of them ties right back to Twilight. The oft-maligned vampire series was a cultural phenomenon upon arrival, the first film’s release having been perfectly timed with the release of the final installment of the printed series, Breaking Dawn. Of the top twenty highest-grossing YA adaptations to date, Twilight accounts for five of them. And yet, the buzz seems to have died down around the series. Sure, part of this can be written off as the innately ephemeral nature of most any popular trend; after a while, the collective consciousness moves on, and the series remains bound for an indeterminate time in that fiscally terrifying purgatory between initial popularity and nostalgic sentiment.

But with Twilight, it’s important to remember that the world started changing as the series progressed, and that series happened to be one major cog in a much larger evolution in American culture. One of the simultaneous booms and busts of the internet age is the ability for audiences to access criticism of their pop culture from every conceivable angle, and to discuss it ad nauseum with others. And given the eventual burnout on Twilight’s reductive gender roles and frequently interpreted moralizing, it makes sense that audiences were already getting enough of it from one source, and weren’t as interested in others. But it still found a crossover audience, which is more than can be said for Beautiful Creatures or The Mortal Instruments or I Am Number Four or City of Ember or Cirque Du Freak or Inkheart. But now, a show of hands: when’s the last time that dedicated Twi-hard in your life brought it up at a family gathering?

And with respect to the matter of audience saturation, that’s as much a sign of burnout as anything. People had their chosen franchise. They couldn’t invest in a dozen at once, because for those who weren’t already reading the books (another desired outcome of the franchise model), it was too much to take on. The proliferation of extremely similar material didn’t help, but the failed YA adaptations even precede Twilight. One of the most notable is still A Series of Unfortunate Events, the would-be Lemony Snicket franchise starter, that failed to see a second installment despite relative success compared to many of the flops that followed. And the burnout became ever more pronounced until last summer, when The Mortal Instruments, a film for which Sony had already kicked off pre-production on a follow-up, made less than $10 million in its opening weekend, on over 3,000 screens nationwide.

This year has seen them as well; even as Divergent was a breakout hit and Maze Runner found more moderate success, albeit with tepid critical and audience reactions alike, the popular franchise Vampire Academy was an unmitigated dud when released to little fanfare in the doldrums of February. It’s not that audiences are inherently uninterested; they just want something new. And studios aren’t going to stop pushing for the next big new thing. Properties are being snapped up one after the next, some of the current dystopian flavor and others attempting to break new ground and be the first to the party. The glut is hardly stopping, and even the existing franchises are trying to stretch as far as possible; like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Breaking Dawn, this weekend sees the release of the first half of the two-part Hunger Games finale Mockingjay, and theDivergent series has already confirmed plans to split its final installment Allegiant in half.

A note on Potter, while the subject has arisen: it’s really those films that studios crave so desperately. While Twilight proved the buying power of the untapped young female demographic, Potter is the four-quadrant franchise to which others aspire. The Pottermodel was less one of a literary adaptation than it was the bellwether of what we’re seeing today with superhero franchises. Everybody saw them, and those who didn’t were still readily aware of their existence at all times. It was a market saturation, sure, but one people embraced. Perhaps what’s happening now, with the seeming disinterest in genre-based franchise offerings not focused on totalitarian governments, is the explosion of the bubble, the one that will inevitably implode in the case of most any pop trend. Buyers set out to find the next Potter, the next Twilight, the next Hunger Games, and they’re likely out to find the next one as we speak.

Dozens of novels have been picked up, and it’s unlikely that the glut ends before at least a few more fatted calves have been sacrificed to the cause. But eventually, the climate of the world will change again, and the interest in dystopia will transition into something else, something unpredictable and unsolvable by most metrics until it’s too late to get out ahead. This is the inherent downside of the YA boom, after all. You can pick a winner with a devoted following, a built-in series ready to go, and even come up with a catchy Twilight Saga-esque franchise subtitle for it all. But audiences will either show up or not, and by the time a movie even sees the light of day, it might already be too late to tap into the zeitgeist. Everybody’s headed for the promised West of the next Hunger Games, and even more will likely circle their wagons when Mockingjay likely starts printing its own money in a few days. But like any riches worth having, the millions conferred by a YA hit are for the few, not the many.

TIME Books

Meet The 24-Year-Old Blogger Who Just Smashed Sales Records With Her Debut Novel

YouTube blogger Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella, poses during a photocall for her debut novel "Girl Online" in London, Nov. 24, 2014.
YouTube blogger Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella, poses during a photocall for her debut novel "Girl Online" in London, Nov. 24, 2014. Luke MacGregor—Reuters

The 24-year-old YouTube and blogging sensation who goes by the online name Zoella has achieved record sales with her first novel "Girl Online"

At just 24, Zoe Sugg, has already become an online sensation, producing beauty and fashion videos on YouTube that have been watched more than 400 million times. But this week the English video blogger also became a literary sensation. Her first novel, Girl Online, sold more copies in its first week of publication in the United Kingdom than any previous debut novel on record and is now the U.K.’s fastest selling book of the year.

The Young Adult novel, which was published on Nov. 25 by Atria/Keywords Press in the U.S. and by Penguin in the U.K., sold more than 78,000 copies in its first week, the highest number of sales in the first week recorded by Nielsen BookScan since they began recording information six years ago, according to The Bookseller. First-week sales for Girl Online, which has been billed as a modern-day Notting Hill for teens, have even eclipsed the first-week sales from the debuts of J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown and EL James.

Commenting on the book’s strong debut, Sugg, who has 2.6 million followers on Twitter, said in a statement, “It’s such an amazing feeling. I’m so grateful to everyone who has bought a copy of Girl Online. I love that so many of my viewers are enjoying the book! This year has been so exciting and this for sure is the icing on the cake.”

Sugg, who is widely known by her blog name, Zoella, first rose to fame with her beauty and make-up tutorials, attracting millions of views from a young and loyal fanbase. When she first started her blog in early 2009 she wrote posts about beauty products she liked or her shopping trips. But before long she branched out and started vlogging (video blogging). Her upbeat, unpretentious tips and tutorials — where she’d demonstrate how to perfect a messy bun or share which drugstore cosmetics she loves — proved popular with her young fans. Sugg then started vlogging about weightier issues such as body image, anxiety and panic attacks and offering life advice for her devoted viewers, cementing her role as an inspiration and idol for millions of young girls.

And thanks to her sunny disposition and wholesome lifestyle — Sugg is vocal about the fact that she doesn’t drink or do drugs — Zoella’s approval rating with parents of young girls also sky-rocketed. In the Telegraph, writer Judith Woods, whose young daughter counts herself among Sugg’s many fans, pronounced the young star “The Perfect Role Model.”

But 2014 has been the year when things really exploded for Sugg offline as well. Not only did she secure a two-book deal with Penguin — Girl Online’s sequel is due out next year — she scored the Teen Choice Award for Choice Web Star: Fashion and Beauty, appeared in British Vogue, launched her own line of beauty products and was even asked by Bob Geldof to sing on the Band Aid charity single for Ebola along with Bono, One Direction and Ed Sheeran.

As her star has risen, Sugg has met some backlash. A handful of British journalists and other bloggers have criticized Sugg and her burgeoning empire. A writer for the Independent described Sugg’s persona as “sickly sweet” and wondered why the vlogger didn’t “encourage kids to spend their pocket money on books or days out with friends, rather than on the latest liquid eyeliner.” Meanwhile, in the Telegraph, a piece described Sugg as “both a product and a figurehead of a generation that is obsessed with staying safe,” not to mention “infuriatingly bland and intimidatingly perfect.”

Not that her fans are swayed by the criticism; tickets for her Girl Online book signings across the U.K. last week sold out within 24 hours. It’s hard to imagine that even Sugg would be bothered by a few naysayers. In an interview with the Financial Times, Sugg reflected on her exploding fame, saying, “I never expected any of this to happen so I’m just going to go with it and make the most of it.”

Read next: The Top 10 Young Adult Books of 2014

TIME Books

Long Lost Letter That Inspired On the Road Found in Oakland

The "Joan Anderson letter," written from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac, is displayed in its entirety for the first time since being discovered, at the Beat Museum in San Francisco on Dec. 1, 2014. Katy Steinmetz for TIME

The letter, sent to Kerouac before he wrote the Beat classic, will be put up for auction

In December 1950, Jack Kerouac got a letter from his friend Neal Cassady, which recounted a wild weekend in Denver that included climbing out a window to escape the discovery of his affair with a babysitter. According to Kerouac, it was this letter that inspired him to write On the Road in the energetic, disruptive way he did. Also according to Kerouac, this famed epistle had probably been dropped off the side of a houseboat decades ago, never to be held or read ever again.

It turns out Kerouac was, happily, wrong.

The letter, discovered in Oakland—in a box of forgotten submissions to a publishing house—has been recovered in its entire 18 single-spaced pages. The woman who found the so-called “Joan Anderson letter” is putting it up for auction on Dec. 17, the same day it was dated by Cassady 64 years ago. “I never thought it would be discovered,” says John Tytell, a American literature professor at Queens College. “And it’s a fluke that it was.”

An excerpt from the “Joan Anderson letter,” sent from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac in 1950. Courtesy of Profiles In History auction house

Jean Spinosa, a 41-year-old performance artist based in L.A., lost her father in 2011. Digging through his “hoarder-level” belongings in Oakland the next year, she came across several boxes he had inherited from a now defunct publisher called Golden Goose Press. Her father’s music label had shared a small office with the man who ran Golden Goose, Richard Emerson. One day, she says, Emerson decided to close up shop and announced his intention to throw everything out, including boxes full of unopened poems and letters sent in by hopeful authors.

“He just didn’t care. He was going to throw it in the trash,” Spinosa tells TIME, speaking at the Beat Museum in San Francisco, where the entire letter was displayed on Dec. 1 for the first time since its discovery was made public in November. “And my dad, being a little bit of a hoarder that he was, said ‘Those are poems. Why would you throw out anyone’s poems?’” Emerson told him he was free to keep them, and he did.

The Joan Anderson letter, nicknamed after a girlfriend Cassady writes about in the 16,000-word epistle, was enshrined in history as more than just a letter in 1968. That was the year Kerouac did an interview with the Paris Review and this exchange occurred:


What encouraged you to use the “spontaneous” style of On the Road?


I got the idea for the spontaneous style of On the Road from seeing how good old Neal Cassady wrote his letters to me, all first person, fast, mad, confessional, completely serious, all detailed … The letter, the main letter I mean, was forty thousand words long, mind you, a whole short novel. It was the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better’n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves … Neal and I called it, for convenience, the Joan Anderson Letter.

Kerouac goes on to explain that the letter was so great, he lent it to his friend Allen Ginsberg, who then shopped it around to publishers. The first was a man named Gerd Stern, who lived on a houseboat in Sausalito, just to the north of San Francisco. Stern rejected it and, Kerouac imagined in the interview, “This fellow lost the letter: overboard I presume.” What really happened, according to research conducted by Spinosa and the auction house selling the letter, is that Stern gave the letter back to Ginsberg, who then gave it to Emerson for his consideration. “Emerson never read it,” Spinosa says, “and Allen forgot about it.” (Kerouac was also clearly off about the word count.)

Jean Spinosa, who discovered the “Joan Anderson letter” in her late father’s things, stands in front of the letter at the Beat Museum in San Francisco on Dec. 1, 2014. Katy Steinmetz for TIME

The sudden appearance of a long-presumed-dead letter is thrilling for Kerouac obsessors and Beat Generation scholars, who see it as a missing link that may detail how On the Road got made. “I’ve always thought that this letter was crucial to establishing the connection between Neal Cassady’s speech pattern, which was rapid and steeped in the vernacular and unbelievably free, and the source of Kerouac’s inspiration,” Tytell says. “He had broken through to discover something very new, and that letter, that lost letter, I knew was tremendously important.”

About a third of the letter had been copied, presumably by Kerouac, and survived. The rest, left to be imagined, became “mythology” long ago, says Nancy Grace, a professor of English at the College of Wooster in Ohio. “We’ll have to see the letter and see his style in the letter to really be able to tell if it was as influential as the mythology leads us to believe.”

At the Beat Museum in San Francisco, a place where the seats of chairs are ripping and the carpet has some holes, reporters set up their cameras on Monday for a view of the letter arranged in a glass case. Even though they could see the whole pile of pages, the sheets had been arranged to obscure most of the newly rescued words—because, a representative from the auction house explained, while Spinosa owns the letter, the Cassady estate still retains copyright for publishing the work. That will remain true for the buyer who wins the letter later this month.

One hopeful bidder, announced in the midst of the press gathering, is the Beat Museum itself. The largest permanent institution dedicated to the likes of Kerouac and Ginsberg—just blocks from their hallowed City Lights bookstore—started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for purchasing the letter. “This has to be out in the world,” says Jerry Cimino, who runs the museum and uses phrases like dig this. “This was their stomping grounds.” In the auction, which will be run by Profiles In History, a house that specializes in Hollywood memorabilia, the lot containing the letter will have a reserve price of $300,000.

Regardless of who wins, at least one man will be happy: Gerd Stern, the fellow who had long been blamed, along with Ginsberg, for losing the letter. As soon as Cimino was allowed to share the news that the letter had been discovered, he called his friend Stern, who now lives in New Jersey. “He goes, ‘Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow!’ He must have said it 10 times,” Cimino says. “And he laughed the longest laugh I’ve ever heard.”

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