A Prank Gone Too Far

Nonfiction Editor for Parallax, Alan Lee, writes on Jake Paul's new book, "You Gotta Want It".

Cheon “Alan” Lee on “You Gotta Want It” by Jake Paul

Jake Paul, You Gotta Want It, $15.00, 2016 (ISBN 978-1-5011-3947-5)

Unless you spend an exceptional amount of time on the Internet, it’s likely that you’ve never heard of the YouTubers Jake and Logan Paul, their exploits, and their rise to Internet infamy. Ask the average YouTube user, however, and they’ll likely criticize the Pauls for their obnoxious and offensive behavior. Examples include recording celebrities without their permission, burning furniture in their empty pool, and filming corpses in a Japanese suicide forest. Through these events, I initially concluded that the Paul brothers were nothing but pseudo-celebrities and was content with leaving it at that. However, I grew curious about their upbringing once I passed Jake’s memoir, aptly titled You Gotta Want It, in a Barnes and Noble, neatly stacked in front of the entrance. Instantly, I knew I had to plunge into this enigma of a book.

The memoir covers the Paul brothers’ journey from youth to adulthood, which is surprisingly well-documented. Easily one-third of the memoir covers their original goal of competing in professional football and wrestling. This, however, falls by the wayside once they discover several YouTube creators whose comedy routines inspire them to pursue this emerging medium. This involved creating a YouTube channel in their early teens, where they posted amateur prank videos, viewing YouTube as a hobby rather than a full-time job.

The early chapters carry an eerie sense of relatability. Of course, not many of us have experience in creating popular Internet content, but the non-Internet-related obstacles and events that occur early in Jake’s life aren’t different from what readers might have faced as children. There’s even an entire chapter titled “Really, Truly Stupid Behavior” where Jake regrets not trying as hard in school as he should have. At one point, Jake is accused of creating a video where he impersonates a fellow high school student. Though Jake is initially reluctant to apologize for his unintentional mistake, he later turns around and apologizes to the student, stating that he makes efforts to “never bully…intentionally.” Although one might doubt the accuracy of this quote based on his current behavior, the sincere tone of his apology humanizes him. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I had at least an ounce of sympathy towards Jake. I guess if you put anybody in a situation where they are at their lowest, you automatically see a human side to someone that just clicks.

Unfortunately, this optimism dies off by the next two-thirds of the book. Whereas the earlier chapters are understandably mischievous, it’s the later chapters that really start to resemble modern-day Jake. Readers are given a constant stream of information regarding Jake’s growing dislike for school, as he begins to devote more and more of his time to creating Vines, a former social media outlet in which people posted six-second long videos. When Jake finally gains traction in the social media world, he begins to look for any opportunity to branch out, eventually signing on to the Disney Channel show Bizaardvark and using his popularity on Vine to form a group of fellow content creators in an attempt to resemble Dr. Dre’s influential rap group, the N.W.A. From here, the book reads more like a list of accomplishments, a far cry from the more engaging and endearing childhood stories. It also doesn’t help that, in reality, nearly all of these ventures fail spectacularly, with Jake losing his job as a Disney actor and several members of his group leaving due to accounts of possible sexual and racial harassment.

The later chapters are held together in an irregular format, as loosely chronological events are intermingled with short lists of things Jake likes, a mini-chapter dedicated to Megan Fox, and exclusive photos of Jake Paul half-naked. Whether or not the informality of this book was intentional, Jake’s fanbase seems to greatly appreciate his style of humor that echoes the nature of juvenile Internet comedy, judging from the YouTube and Amazon reviews of this book

In short, You Gotta Want It is as much of a character study into Jake Paul as Trump: The Art of the Deal is for Donald Trump; both books provide a never-before-seen insight into a controversial individual, allowing readers to learn the history and motives of said subjects. Neither book really counts as “pleasure reading,” however, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything genuinely entertaining about Jake’s memoir. What few relatable moments or decent tidbits on how to create an effective social media presence Jake includes are then offset by entire passages outlining how many girls Jake hooked up with, or borderline-egotistical ramblings about how famous he once was on Vine.

At its best, You Gotta Want It is an inspirational autobiography that provides a glimpse into the limitless potential the Internet provides this generation. At its worst, You Gotta Want It is a poorly-timed “memoir” about a jock in his twenties who wants to go down as the icon of his generation, written more out of necessity for merchandising than out of a genuine desire to express his thoughts on his chaotic life.

By Cheon “Alan” Lee

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