Get To Know The Writers Behind The YA Novel Tackling LGBT And Mental Health


Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

Even if you don’t regularly watch Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin’s YouTube videos, you’d assume they were best friends after talking with them for just five minutes. They play off of each other’s jokes, their natural banter has a way of making you feel like you shouldn’t be listening in, and they make fun of each other in front of complete strangers. You know, typical best friend behavior.

That same relationship, which has more than 750K YouTube subscribers, is now on paper for their new YA novel, I Hate Everyone But You. Well, sort of. The book is loosely based on Dunn's and Raskin’s college experiences—though which parts are fact and which are fiction you’ll have to figure out yourself. It follows Ava and Gen, two best friends navigating their first semester at college on opposite sides of the country. Through text messages and emails, the book tackles things like heartbreak, self-discovery, losing your virginity for the first time, coming out, mental health, and polyamory. Not your typical YA novel one might say. But Generation Z isn’t your typical generation, either.

Dunn and Raskin tell me they chose to write a YA novel because teenagers, the ones now expected to change the world, are whom they wanted to be speaking to. “I think that it’s a really good growth time, and if you can get through to them at that age, you can really shape what they become,” Dunn says.

Ahead, we chat with both Dunn and Raskin about why queer content is so important for young people, the work that goes into maintaining a friendship, and how writing a book has turned them “increasingly fake.”

You guys are best friends in real life, but having two people write one book seems a little difficult. What was that process like?
Allison Raskin: We just sat next to each other, nine to five, three days a week. I typed the whole book while Gaby sat next to me, we ate a lot of candy and listened to a lot of music.
Gaby Dunn: Swiped on Tinder.
AR: Yeah, it was good times.

It's very much based on both of your own experiences; what kind of boundaries did either of you create for yourself in terms of what you would and wouldn't include?
AR: Well, it's fiction, so honestly there were no boundaries. If anything, we want to be able to deny and say we totally made that up. I think that's maybe some of the fun for the fans who know us, to decipher what's new and what actually happened.
GD: We took a lot from our real lives—we took a lot of actual experiences and tried to condense them down to happen in one semester. So, if anyone wants to go back, [they can] find the actual article that I wrote about a dean committing sexual harassment because that really happened. If anyone wants to find Gen's real article, it's a deep cut from the Gaby Dunn Library.

How was it revisiting freshman year of college? It can be a roller coaster for a lot of people.
AR: I think it was such a relief to be an adult. I never wanted to go back in time. I think that that's like the mythology often, that college is often the best time of your life, and I really wanted to make a book where that wasn't the case and where that was okay.
GD: Yeah, I mean I was sort of a fuck-up in the beginning. I partied too much and I hung out with people a lot of whom later dropped out. I took up smoking cigs. I was like, "I'm free for the first time, I'm gonna do all the adult things I want." And so, it was fun to go back and be like, "Oh yeah, you didn't know anything, here's a depiction of that!"

In the book, there's a transgender character and you touch on LGBT and mental health issues. You guys obviously bring these topics up a lot on your YouTube channel also, but why was bringing them up in the book important to the both of you?
GD: I think there's this weird misconception right now, that queer content isn't for young people. My friend Lindsey Amer runs a channel called "Queer Kids Stuff," which is like a Sesame Street and for kids, and people go crazy on her for that, they're, like, so furious [for introducing queerness to children]. But we tell babies, "Oh, that's your girlfriend," or, "Oh, this baby's such a flirt." It's not like we don't teach kids heterosexuality. So I think there's this weird thing, where we're like, "Oh, we gotta keep the queer content away from the kids," but kids know, teenagers know, they're very sure of themselves now. They're very interested in sexuality, so I wanted to depict 18-year-olds who already are interested in that about themselves. Where Alex has already transitioned, and that's not a huge factor in his story line in the book. Gen's coming out, but she's still super-happy about it and is excited to be bisexual. I think that was important because I didn't want to talk down to young people who already know this.
AR: I think a large part of what we enjoy doing on the channel is normalizing stuff that potentially hasn't been completely normalized yet, but if we treat it like it's no big deal, then it becomes no big deal. That was definitely a big approach to some mental health stuff in the book.

It's so strange that people are uncomfortable with exploring this topic with younger generations because I feel like Gen Z is probably the most woke of the generations. 
AR: I've always said that this generation is our only hope.

It's true, they have a lot riding on them. 
AR: Yeah, if the world survives long enough for them to take over.

So, another aspect of the book that I really like is that the characters argue. There's a lot of love, but there's also a lot of telling it like it is. Ava says a lot in the book that she refuses to be a yes woman to Gen. Why was that important to show the highs and lows of friendship, and did you pull from any of the arguments that you guys have had in real life?
GD: Oh, we had a huge fight while writing this book, and we just put it in the book! We had a massive fight in the middle of writing it, that was like, it came from weak plays on both sides but… I think there was stuff that came from good places, and that's where the characters are coming from; they love each other. It's less mad and more sad that they're not seeing eye to eye.
AR: I think there's this misconception that only romantic relationships take work, and we wanted to show that all strong relationships and important relationships take work and there will be fights. You're never going to completely agree with someone because... how could you?
GD: I agree that there's this whole thing of like, "You don't have to work it out unless it's your significant other." But you do! Allison's my significant other in a lot of ways, and we do have to work it out.

What do you guys hope that younger generations, or whoever is reading this book, take away from it?
AR: Friendship should be an important part of real life—it should be a priority—and who you are now doesn't dictate who you are in the future. There's so much room for growth and both characters change so much in the course of one semester, just imagine what they'll be like at the end of the college experience. And hopefully, you'll find out, because it'll become a best-seller and we'll get to write a sequel.
GD: Yeah, I think you don't have to be so headstrong about stuff, and I think you should be willing to learn and be willing to be wrong. It's not embarrassing to be wrong. I still have to teach myself that all the time, but it's not embarrassing to change and be wrong.

Gaby, I listen to your podcast Bad with Money, do you guys have a plan in place for how you're going to manage your first big check from book sales?
GD: Well, the personal proceeds that we're making from the tour are going to Hurricane Harvey relief, that's what we decided to do. So, that is good and bad with money? We thought that was the right thing to do, considering how disastrous and devastating it's been. Also, it was a great opportunity for me to learn what a retirement [fund] was, and to actually put stuff away for retirement. So that's mostly what I've been doing. I don't wanna seem like a saint, I also bought a lot of suits... oh yeah, and sneakers. I became a sneakerhead.
AR: I started getting fake eyelashes? Cause that feels like the real me?
GD: They look amazing.
AR: Thank you.
GD: We’re just becoming increasingly fake.
AR: Yeah, that's what is happening. I pay for a trainer now, I have fake nails, I don't know what's going on! I was saying, like, no one is beautiful, people are just rich.
GD: Yeah! Dolly Parton says, "Ain't no such thing as a natural beauty."

I Hate Everyone But You is available for purchase now.

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

"In my head I thought, This is how it ends"

Kit Harington almost lost a lot more than the Iron Throne while filming the final season of Game of Thrones. According to an interview with NowThis News, the actor almost lost one of his balls while riding a mechanical dragon.

Harington revealed that the incident took place when he was filming the scene where his character, Jon Snow, takes a ride on Rhaegal for the first time in the Season 8 premiere. Since dragons aren't real (sorry), Harington was filming the scene, where Jon almost falls off the dragon and then swings around to pick himself back up, on a mechanical contraption.

"My right ball got trapped, and I didn't have time to say, 'Stop,'" Harington said in an interview. "And I was being swung around. In my head I thought, This is how it ends. On this buck, swinging me around by my testicles, literally." We see shots of the fake dragon he's riding in front of a green screen, and it does look pretty terrifying.

Luckily, his testicles remained intact through the near-disastrous event, and he's survived with quite the story to tell to unsuspecting journalists.

Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for goop

"I had to create a harder shell about being a woman"

In a panel discussion during Gwyneth Paltrow's In Goop Health summit, actress Jessica Alba revealed that she "stopped eating" to avoid unwanted attention from men when she was first starting her career in Hollywood.

According to People, Alba said that she "had a curvy figure as a young girl" and, as such, was made to feel as though her body was the reason that men may be inappropriate toward her. "I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men," Alba said during the panel discussion. "Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention. I went through a big tomboy phase."

She continued, "In Hollywood, you're really preyed upon. They see a young girl, and they just want to touch you inappropriately or talk to you inappropriately or think that they're allowed to be aggressive with you in a way."

Alba also noted that she was raised in a conservative household. "My mom would say, 'You have a body, and it's very womanly, and people don't understand that you're 12,'" she said. "I wasn't allowed to have my nalgas out, which is butt cheeks [in Spanish], but I was born with a giant booty, and they come out of everything. So, I didn't get to wear normal things that all my friends wore."

She said that these reactions to her body really affected her attitude. "I created this pretty insane 'don't fuck with me' [attitude]," she said. "I had to create a harder shell about being a woman."

According to her, her relationship to her body only changed when her first child, Honor, was born in 2008. "[After she was born,] I was like, Oh this is what these boobies are meant to do! Feed a kid!" she said. "And that was the dopest shit I'd ever done. So, I came into my body as a woman finally and I stopped being ashamed of myself."

Photo courtesy of Teva

Because of course

Teva, the most obvious lesbian footwear brand since Birkenstock, really knows its customer base. In time for Pride, the brand has teamed up with Tegan and Sara for a gay shoe to end all gay shoes. In other words, your Pride footwear is on lock.

The shoe isn't just your average Teva sandal. Tegan and Sara's design, the Teva Flatform Universal Pride sandal, is a 2.5-inch platform shoe with a rainbow sole. Tegan and Sara noted in a press release that they have been Teva wearers for pretty much their whole lives. "We got our first pair of Teva sandals when we were 16," they said. "This rainbow Flatform collab is like full circle LGBTQ+ Pride validation."

What's better, with each sandal sale, Teva will donate $15 to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, up to $30,000. The funds donated will go toward scholarships which will give young members of the LGBTQ+ community the chance to go to summer camps which will "help develop self-confidence and leadership abilities in a safe and nurturing environment." Tegan and Sara added, "Teva's generous support for our foundation will allow us to help even more LGBTQ+ youth."

Available today at Teva's and Nordstrom's websites, the sandal retails for $80.

Photo courtesy of Teva

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Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design"

Prada Group has announced that Prada, as well as all of its brands, will now be fur-free. According to a press release from the Humane Society, Prada, Miu Miu, Church's, and Car Shoe will ban the use of fur beginning with the Spring/Summer 2020 collection (aka the Fashion Week coming up next). The list of fashion designers banning fur only continues to grow, with 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and more having stopped using the material in seasons past.

"The Prada Group is committed to innovation and social responsibility, and our fur-free policy—reached following a positive dialogue with the Fur Free Alliance, in particular with LAV and the Humane Society of the United States—is an extension of that engagement," Miuccia Prada told the Human Society. "Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design while meeting the demand for ethical products."

Following London Fashion Week designers forgoing the use of fur in September and the first-ever Vegan Fashion Week taking place in February, it's easy to imagine an entirely fur-free fashion future. It's especially easy, I presume, for the brands to consider a fur-free future, given that entire cities and states are taking a stance. New York is following in the footsteps of Los Angeles banning fur, with a bill proposed this March that would ban sales across New York State.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

"Club leisure" is the new athleisure

Alexander Wang is recognizing clubbing as the workout that it truly is with his latest Adidas collaboration. In this fifth installment, he "changes gears," per a press release from the brand, taking the iconic sports brand to the dance floor.

For the new campaign, the collection comes to life in iconic choreographer Tanisha Scott's dance studio and stars dancers Noemi Janumala, Dakota Moore, Avi McClish, and Olivia Burgess. The dancers show just how far these clothes can go when you want to bust a move or stretch, but TBH, I'll leave these poses to the pros and just use my clothes for flexing on the 'gram.

The collection—which features six apparel items, three shoes, and six accessories—features, per a press release, "Wang's knack for pre-styling." Standouts from the mostly black-and-white items include a silver sneaker that was *made* for moonwalking, an airy windbreaker that has just the right dash of bright blue with the scattered Adidas trefoil design, and a towel hoodie that you won't feel bad sweating in.

Ahead of the May 25 collection drop online and in stores, peep the gorgeous campaign images below.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Joggers, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Towel Hoodie, $350, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Sock Leggings, $60, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Adilette Slides, $90, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Futureshell Shoes in Platinum Metallic, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Core White, $280, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Shorts in Core White, $120, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Bum Bag, $50, available staring May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Duffle Bag, $70, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

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