Chase dreams

Time magazine’s ‘most in­flu­en­tial teens’.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R.AGE -

and hu­man rights cam­paigner who was shot in the head by the Tal­iban, and frankly a lit­tle freaked out to find her­self in the same com­pany as Bieber, the Cana­dian singer, ac­tor and heart­throb.

For those yet to catch up with Reeks’s work, she be­gan writ­ing love sto­ries about teens partly be­cause she was fed up with so many books aimed at young peo­ple be­ing about vam­pires, were­wolves and wiz­ards (though she grew up on Harry Pot­ter her­self and cites J.K. Rowl­ing as one of her role mod­els).

She self-pub­lished her first novel, The Kiss­ing Booth, a rol­lick­ing ro­mance set in Cal­i­for­nia, on Wattpad, the story-shar­ing web­site, and watched amazed as her tale at­tracted 19 mil­lion read­ers across the globe.

Ran­dom House sub­se­quently pub­lished The Kiss­ing Booth and her sec­ond novel, Rolling Dice, and has com­mis­sioned her to write a third, Out Of Tune.

De­spite her lit­er­ary suc­cess, Reeks be­gan a physics de­gree at Ex­eter this au­tumn – she is aim­ing for a twin ca­reer as sci­en­tist and au­thor – and was busy pre­par­ing for her mid-term ex­ams when the news came that she was on Time’s list. She takes the ac­co­lade se­ri­ously.

“A lot of the po­ten­tial role mod­els for young women – peo­ple like Mi­ley Cyrus – have a bad rep­u­ta­tion, prob­a­bly be­cause of the me­dia ma­nip­u­lat­ing things rather than any­thing else.

“Be­ing on this list gives me sta­tus as a role model – it will give me more weight help­ing young girls to achieve what they want to. It’s good if my achieve­ments are seen as things girls and young women can look up to, as­pire to.”

Reeks (@Reek­les) gets tweets from writ­ers even younger than her in­spired by her suc­cess. “They tell me I have given them more con­fi­dence in what they are do­ing or have prompted them to put their work on­line. I’ve achieved some­thing they dream of.”

She is also de­lighted if she prompts young peo­ple, es­pe­cially girls, to read. “It’s re­ally great when I get mes­sages from peo­ple say­ing they don’t read a lot but have en­joyed my books and are now look­ing for other things to read.”

Reeks, who was the only girl to study physics in her Form Six class, also puts a lot of effort into tweet­ing about science. “I try to get younger girls in­ter­ested in physics. They may think it’s not just a boy sub­ject if I’m do­ing it.” It may be her tough­est chal­lenge – girls ac­count for only about a fifth of stu­dents on her course.

As an au­thor who got her break on the In­ter­net, Reeks is a pas­sion­ate sup­porter of on­line com­mu­ni­ties.

“When I started writ­ing I had no friends who were writ­ers and so I thought it was a strange hobby. Then I found an on­line com­mu­nity of other girls who liked writ­ing and that was a big con­fi­dence booster for me. I felt, OK, this is some­thing that is not that strange, it’s just un­com­mon.

“There tend to be a lot of neg­a­tive sto­ries about teenagers on the In­ter­net but it is a good place to show your tal­ent off. Pub­lish­ers are find­ing a lot of peo­ple on­line now.”

Hap­pily, Reeks gets very lit­tle ag­gres­sive at­ten­tion on the In­ter­net. “I get ‘This book sucks’ once in a blue moon. The vast ma­jor­ity – 99% of com­ments – are re­ally pos­i­tive.”

Reeks is pol­ish­ing her third book in be­tween lec­tures. And no, she does not feel the need sud­denly to write more se­ri­ous fic­tion be­cause of her suc­cess.

“I don’t feel I need to write some­thing grave. I feel I need to write some­thing that girls can re­late to. I’m ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters, dif­fer­ent sto­ry­lines but want to keep it re­lat­able to teenagers.”

De­spite ev­ery­thing, Reeks still does not get stopped on the street. “That hasn’t hap­pened yet. Partly it may be be­cause I don’t wear glasses in pub­lic­ity shots. In real life I al­ways have my glasses on.”

Her fi­nal mes­sage to those she has in­flu­ence over?

“Even if sounds a bit cheesy, pur­sue your dreams. Don’t let any­one get in the way of your dreams. Even if you get knocked back, work hard, carry on.” – Guardian News & Me­dia

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