It was like the four horsemen of online cancellation had marched in. First, comment sections were disabled, then posts were completely deleted after the words “shameful” and “disgusting” were thrown around. If you’re not sure what we’re talking about, basically Millie Bobby Brown has been trending all over social media because of her recent book launch. And, before we get into it, let’s just say that every BookTop creator under the sun is not pleased with the Stranger Things actor.
Netizens have formed a scathing opinion of Brown’s debut novel Nineteen Steps before they even read a single page. Why, you ask? Because it was written by ghostwriter Kathleen McGurl. Still confused why this would warrant so much outrage. Let us break it down for you.
Nineteen Steps is a historical romance novel about the 1943 Bethnal Green tube disaster. After an air-raid warning, many locals raced for cover to the tube station and were subsequently crushed and killed after they became entrapped on the staircase entrance. The tragedy claimed 173 lives, including 62 children, and is considered the largest loss of civilian life in the UK during the Second World War. Brown has stated that her grandmother inspired the story. The book was released on 12 September 2023.
It’s not unusual for celebrities to hire ghostwriters. Especially, if they are working on a memoir. Some of the most well-known examples are Becoming by Michelle Obama, Paris: The Memoir by Paris Hilton, as well as the infamous Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.
After all, public figures usually don’t have the time, discipline, or writing skills to write a book. Ghostwriters are also frequently used for fiction. Does anyone remember Rebels: City of Indra by Kendall and Kylie Jenner?
Well, a major concern for netizens is the lack of credit ghostwriters often get. While this is a very valid concern, Brown has been quite open about the fact that she has not written this story. In an Instagram caption, which was paired with a picture of both Brown and McGurl, the actor stated: “A huge thank you to my collaborator @kathleenmcgurl. I couldn’t have done this without you! #nineteensteps.”
Furthermore, it did not take long for some pro-Millie BookTokers to smell the misogyny in this heated debate. “Can we please not do the thing where we pin this very complicated social issue on a very young woman, who by all accounts is following all the rules set up by other people? Millie Bobby Brown is properly crediting her ghostwriter,” BookToker Kirby said about the debate.
The online outrage over Millie Bobby Brown’s debut novel, Nineteen Steps, highlights a common practice of celebrities using ghostwriters, and quickly seeing a vicious backlash. And while some of the questions about the amount of credit they are entitled to remain, it is evident that Brown is neither the cause of the issue nor the keeper of the answer.