GONZALES — It was the redheaded heroine of a book Isabel Naquin read in middle school that turned the 16-year-old high school student into a devoted reader, blogger, YouTube presence and most recently, a book reviewer for a national teen magazine.
The fictional character Clary Fray, the main protagonist of the best-selling young adult series “Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Claire sparked a renewed love of reading for Isabel, following a lull after her Harry Potter-reading days.
“The heroine (Clary) is 16 and had started navigating young adulthood,” said Isabel, a St. Amant High School junior, who’s enrolled in the Early College program at River Parishes Community College in Gonzales.
Isabel was in the eighth grade when she discovered “Mortal Instruments” and loved it so much, she wanted to find others to talk to about the book.
“As soon as I finished reading the series, I went to Instagram and saw a ton of fans who loved the series,” Isabel said.
The series’ first book, “City of Bones,” became a movie in 2013.
Isabel came across some blogs by readers, too.
“I was just really inspired by what they were doing,” she said. “They took something as simple as reading and shared that in a creative way.”
She started reading other young adult fantasy series, her favorite genre, and found “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer” by Michele Hodkin, “The Darkest Minds” by Alexandra Bracken and others.
She began to think of beginning a blog of her own.
With her parents’ permission, Isabel launched her blog, The Book Academy, dedicated to sharing reviews and news on young adult fiction, in February 2014 on WordPress.
She asked family friend Carrie Goodall, a librarian at an Ascension Parish primary school, to join her as a co-blogger, which helped her parents, Kelly and Jason Naquin, both teachers in Ascension Parish, feel comfortable with their daughter becoming a blogger.
“It started off with her love of reading,” Kelly Naquin said of her daughter’s blog.
Her father said he was pleased that his daughter will likely benefit from starting such endeavors at a young age.
“It has so many future levels to put into use, in college and professionally,” Jason Naquin said.
Isabel took the leap from reviewing books online to also interviewing authors two years ago and posting them on the BookTube Network, a community on YouTube.
Her BookTube channel is called izzy’sreadingcorner.
She said that authors have been supportive and receptive to her emails requesting Skype interviews.
Her first author interview was with New York Times bestselling author Temple West, who wrote “Velvet.”
She’s done about eight interviews since launching her BookTube channel.
Her most recent one was with Claudia Gray, author of “A Thousand Pieces of You,” another New York Times bestseller.
In the fall of 2015, visiting the Texas Teen Book Festival with an aunt, Isabel met representatives of Justine Magazine for teen girls, and some months later became one of the magazine’s so-named “Spark” girls who provide book reviews.
It’s an unpaid position, but Naquin sometimes gets bylines.
“She’s learning so many cutting-edge life skills … we can’t keep up!” Kelly Naquin said with a laugh.
The same year, Isabel was a panelist on the Louisiana Book Festival’s BookTube Panel.
“Her enthusiasm and passion for the things she loves to do is contagious,” Goodal said. “I’m amazed each time she pursues a new project without fear of failure. She just goes after it. She’s pretty amazing.”
Technology, though, has been limited in one respect for Isabel, who’s also a member of the Teen Leadership Council at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans.
She tried using a Nook tablet for reading, but found out she still wants to hold the real book in her hands.
“I like to have ownership of my books,” she said.