‘By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Lily’s debut essay collection will inspire you to be who you are and say what you feel. It’s time to claim your voice. And live your life unfiltered.’
Lily Collins was originally born in the UK but moved to the US with her mum at the age of about 6. She still happily shares her heritage and loves spending time in the UK. Many people would know Lily for being the daughter of Phil Collins, but Lily’s own achievements are numerous. Early on, she developed a passion for journalism which lead her to work for Elle Girl UK and later for CosmoGirl and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. Collins has appeared in numerous films and made her debut in The Blind Side which was nominated for an Academy Award. Her other films include: Mirror Mirror; The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones; The English Teacher; Love, Rosie; Okja; Halo of Stars and To the Bone. In 2016 Collins was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in Rules Don’t Apply. Currently she is on TV in the series The Last Tycoon. Collins takes as many opportunities as she can to attend events and encourage the young people of today to come together and not be afraid to speak out. She continues this mission through her debut book.
‘The time to be unfiltered is now.’
A short while ago I started following Lily on social media and when she began talking about her book I was immediately interested by the sound of it. I also saw Penguin talking about it and so when I received an Amazon gift voucher for Christmas, I decided to pre-order the book. Whilst following Lily on social media, I have been interested by some of the things that she has said and how passionate she is about the things that she does and the people in her life. All of these things meant I have really looked forward to reading her debut book.
Firstly, I think that a good place to start would be to explain the premise of being ‘Unfiltered’. In a world filled with social media where people choose what to share, it seems that the depiction we give of ourselves is not wholly truthful because we control what other people see. Of course, it is nothing new that this is very damaging, especially to young people, who see what they perceive to be other people’s perfect lives and begin to feel very alone and that they are not good enough. The premise of being unfiltered is that you are open and more honest and show the truth to your life as oppose to the perfect outer image we often display. This means learning to accept ourselves and our past. Collins has begun this herself through the book, and she explains that it has been hard for her to see comments from young girls who think that she is perfect and that her life has been easy. She wants to use the idea of being unfiltered to use her voice to open up and show that her life is not, and has not always been, perfect. Collins wants people to be encouraged by what she has done and open up themselves.
Structurally, because the book is a collection of 17 essays, each essay becomes a chapter. This means that the book is quite simple to dip in and out of whenever you want because you can find whichever essay it is you want to read. Each essay is a good length and read quite quickly, which is always good when reading non-fiction, I think. I liked that as this book is about Collins, she had the ability to write on whichever topics she chose, and that is evident from how her choices are personal and meaningful. She talks about her parents and her relationships and also about her own trouble with insecurities and the lessons she has learned along the way. I like that the topics covered are not what seem to have become rather generic, like the media and boys and friendships etc. Collins has chosen topics that she knows she can talk about and she has chosen them because this book is her opening up about her life, therefore she has to write about things that have actually affected her. This also creates a great mixture of deep and light topics. Everyone’s life is full of highs and lows and having this mix in the book adds to Collins being able to open up and show that her life is much like a lot of people’s. One thing I would say is that essays on one topic are not grouped together. In a way I think that could have made sense, but it is also nice to break it all up a bit and to circle back from time to time.
Collins also chooses to intersperse photos throughout the book. These fit with what she is talking about at the time, for example a photo of her tattoo that she is describing, and give more of an autobiographical feel to the book. I really liked this because it is always nice to see photos in a book that is about someone, and it also adds a personal touch for Collins herself.
As usual with books like this one I am glad that there are some resources in the back. When topics like eating disorders are covered I think that it is important to show readers that there is help available if they are suffering from something talked about in the book and would like to get help. Giving resources means that the work is partly done for the reader and they can feel comfortable that these networks have been recommended are will be helpful.
One of my favourite parts of the structure of the book is that before each chapter there is a page with a quote from that chapter on it. Some of these quotes are really great and I always love having quotes to think about. Here are a few that I really liked:
‘I will never need anyone to complete me. I am enough on my own.’
‘Don’t live a boring life if you can add a little silly into it every once in a while.’
‘Sources of weakness can transform into your most important and influential sources of inner strength.’
‘The more characters you meet, the more character you build. The more colourful your story, the more colourful your life.’
‘Our greatest triumphs in life don’t come without having to navigate both the ups and the downs.’
Regarding the content of this book, I would like to say that despite some of the topics covered, this book is not a deep ‘patriarchy buster’ like some other books that I have read and reviewed. I like that about the book because it means it is a little more relaxing to read. There are many things that I really like about this book and about Collins herself. I did not know much about Collins before I read this book and I really enjoyed getting to know more about her, but not through media articles or what is said online, but through her own words. Additionally, Collins really opens up quite deeply to her reader and so I liked that I knew this would not be a censored version of herself, but her true self. Through her writing I could also feel a lot of her personality which I think is really good in a book that is largely autobiographical because it adds more of a warmth and personal touch that engages the reader. I totally admire Collins for writing this book and for deciding to be so honest, not only to herself and people around her, but to anyone who reads the book. I love that she has decided to do this in order to help other people, as well as herself. She uses what she has been through and learned to help teach others and that is an admirable thing to do in my opinion. There are also things that Collins says in the book which I really liked and found interesting. Chapter three is a ‘note to self’ all about love and about how we accept what we think we deserve. I think that this is a really good idea for including the reader in the book and also shows how Collins wants to help the reader and to encourage them to reflect upon themselves. Linking to this, later in the book, when thinking about her own relationships, Collins talks about women and says, ‘Well, we as women are often born nurturers.’ She goes on to talk about how this means we often want to help people, especially partners, and hope that we can help them change and grow, and how whilst this is great when all goes well, it can go the opposite way and cause problems. I found this really interesting and can definitely think of instances in my life that can be explained by this. A chapter that I really enjoyed was chapter seven, ‘Every Tattoo Tells a Story’. Collins begins this chapter by talking about art and how each person who looks at art will interpret it differently, even perhaps differently to the artist themselves. This is a very thought-provoking idea and I do think that each time you look at a piece of art it can say something different to you. Collins uses these ideas to talk about why it is so difficult to choose a tattoo to get because you do not want to get something and then not like it however long later. Although I have no tattoos myself, I found reading about the meaning of each of Collins’ tattoos intriguing because they all say something about her.
Next, I would like to look at why I think that this book is important, for both the reader and Collins herself. Through this book the reader is able to see and learn that Collins is like anyone else, she is real. She has had problems, been through hard times, struggled personally and has worked hard to get where she is. It is important for readers to understand this and to see that other famous people are the same. Often celebrities are idolised and treated like they are not real people but are somehow perfect people with perfect lives. Collins shows that that is not the case and I think this is vital, especially in the social media age. I also think that Collins is a great person to display this issue because she is very relatable and has had a fair share of ups and downs. Yet I liked that she has so clearly not written this book for the money or for the fame, but for herself to learn and grow, and to share all of this with the hope that she can help and inspire other people. It is clear that what Collins wants is for us to be more open and honest ourselves, and she leads by example. She wants us to be honest with ourselves as well as others and to listen to our own wants and needs and learn about and embrace who we are. This is a really important lesson and Collins has lots of those to share. Because she is able to write about whatever topics she chooses, she does not shy away from the lessons she has learned. Some lessons were things that are said a fair amount, but that I think you have to learn for yourself, like that bad things help us to appreciate the good things more and relationships teach us a lot about ourselves. However, the following quotes are ones I really liked and are lessons I think I will carry with me after reading this book.
‘The quirky things that make you different are what make you beautiful.’
‘perfection is an unattainable goal’
‘it’s through using our voices, both written and spoken, that we become stronger’
Overall, the idea of the things that Collins says is not necessarily to always feel the same as she does on each topic, but to open up in the same way that she has and to embrace yourself and accept who you are and what you have been through. This process has been important for Collins too. She has learnt and grown through writing and sharing her experiences and I like that in the last chapter she has the chance to go back to her issues and see how much she has grown. It is also really good to read about body issues from someone who has been through it and who is able to show that people in the spotlight who are idolised are not above insecurities. At the end of the day, each reader will take away something different because we all lead different lives and have different opinions, but that is okay. The most important thing about this book is that Collins leads by example when it comes to being ‘Unfiltered’.
The end of this book is a perfect fit. Collins is able to reflect on much of what she has been through and learned from it and I liked that this last chapter is more about herself and her personal growth. It is great to finish by seeing how following the idea of being unfiltered has actually had an effect on Collins. You feel like you have been on a journey with her and are able to see how well she has done and you can almost feel proud.
I would definitely recommend this book because Collins has a lot of great advice and stories to share. I think that every person would be able to take away something from reading this book and that is really great. I think it has quickly become one of my favourite books.
Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me – Lily Collins, first published in the US by HarperCollins in 2017, this edition published by Ebury Press in 2017, RRP £12.99, ISBN 978-1-78503-410-7