Thursday, April 26, 2018

REVIEW: It's Your Universe

In addition to my normal reading goals for the year, I want to read more geeky nonfiction. I love first account stories from real, professional geeks who are right in the thick of pop culture. That’s why I was so excited to receive a copy of a book about growing up Disney and the creation of a revolutionary fashion line written by an actual star of a Disney show. Check out my full review of It’s Your Universe by Ashley Eckstein after the jump.

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of It's Your Universe courtesy of Disney Books.
Opinions are my own.

Ashley Eckstein grew up inspired by all things Disney. She launched Her Universe, an apparel company catering to fangirls, which has become a preferred partner for Disney and their girl power initiative. In IT'S YOUR UNIVERSE, Ashley shares her own life lessons, as well as lessons from iconic Disney characters, as a way to inspire girls to create big dreams and work to make them a reality.

If you’re not familiar with Ashley Eckstein, or only familiar with her as the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars, then let me put this into context for you. If Felicia Day is the Queen of the Geeks, Ashley Eckstein is our Princess. I know they’re the same age but that’s not important just go with it.

It’s Your Universe is a mix between a memoir/autobiography and a motivational/self-help book. Since I’ve already compared the author to Felicia Day, I’m inevitably going to compare this book to Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet. Day’s book goes a bit more in-depth with her childhood and career. Eckstein only scratches the surface and jumps around a bit in her own origin story - but that’s not what this is about.

What makes this book really stand out is how every anecdote is accompanied by a Disney inspired life lesson. Every moment in the author’s life is compared to a key moment in a Disney film. Every step in her journey towards her goals is related to a moment in the life of a Disney princess. And these lessons aren’t just to show off how wild her life has been. It’s a motivational story that definitely left me feeling pumped to go out and seize the day.

Starting from a young age, Ashley wanted to be a star - a Disney star to be exact. Whether it was on the Disney Channel or at a Disney Park, she wanted to sing and dance in the most magical place on Earth. Naturally, thousands of obstacles stood in her way, but she kicked them all down one by one. When she moved to LA to take acting more seriously, she broke all of the rules to get an agent and land her first roles. When Lucasfilm told her the idea of a geeky clothing line for girls and women wasn’t going to work, she didn’t give up and ended up proving them wrong. The whole time I was reading about her hard work and determination, all I wanted to do was put the book down and go work on my blog or finish my novel.

I will say that it gets to a certain point where the Disney comparisons get to be a bit much. A lot of them begin with the phrase, “Do you remember” and then go on to explain what happens in some of the most popular films of all time. Other comparisons feel a bit over-explained. A long description of a sequence from The Little Mermaid is explained in detail just so Eckstein can compare wanting to be a voice actor to Arial longing to be “part of your world” with none of the stuff about Prince Eric getting blown up while saving his dog on his birthday being of any importance. A few pages are spent recapping the entire plot of Moana - I don’t even remember why. There are also little mini-lessons that are fine and would go great between chapters. But they’re instead placed almost randomly - sometimes in the middle of a sentence!

The book is gorgeous though. It could’ve been released by any publisher, but having the story of the most Disney person on the planet be released by Disney itself was the right move. Every reference to a Disney film is accompanied by beautiful, simplistic illustrations. I feel like I’m reading a journal Ashley would’ve kept as a kid, with drawings of all of her favorite characters and symbols in the margins.

Before getting a copy of this book, I’d never heard of Ashley Eckstein. Well, I’m sure I did since I watched Star Wars Rebels, but not in the context of her being the super cool geek princess that grew up in Orlando and went on to create her own Disney empire. It’s Your Universe is an inspiring story about never giving up, always having hope, and making your own wishes come true.

Click here to order your copy of It's Your Universe.