Girl Online by Zoe Sugg
|Girl Online by Zoe Sugg
|Reviewer: Robert James
|Summary: It's undoubtedly going to be the biggest selling books for teens this Christmas, whatever the quality. So it's nice that it's actually rather good!
|Date: November 2014
|External links: Author's website
I've been intrigued by the idea of Girl Online since I first heard about it - I love books about blogging and the internet, and obviously YouTube sensation Zoella has had the experience of becoming well known online herself. The backlash from certain quarters has intrigued me as well; the number of people who've completely dismissed this as a bad book while admitting they haven't read it seems surprisingly high. I approached it with an open mind - I've never watched any of her YouTube videos and at the time of reading, hadn't read her blog, although I've just checked out a couple of her personal posts and I'm quite impressed by them. I think that people who do the same thing will enjoy it.
Girl Online is the story of a girl who secretly blogs about her friendships, family, boys, and the panic attacks she's suffering from. After a bad experience at school, she's whisked away to New York by her parents, along with gay best friend Elliott. Things take a decided turn for the better as she meets and falls for Noah, a gorgeous guitar player - but Noah has his own secret, and it could cause even more problems for Penny if it gets out.
So, I've been debating whether to review it (apart from anything else I think most people seem to have made up their mind up and either pre-ordered or sworn off already!) but think it's worth sharing my thoughts. The author has a strong voice and an engaging writing style and has created some lovely characters here - I liked all three of the main ones for most of the novel. Penny seems rather similar to Zoella herself (from the little I've picked up about Zoe from a few newspaper articles, and the three blog posts I've read, admittedly) but is a sympathetic narrator, particularly when she's struggling with her panic attacks, which are very well-described. I rolled my eyes a bit at the speed at which her relationship with Noah developed - instalove is something that always irritates me - but they're both so likeable that I can at least believe they would fall for each other, even if a slower pace would have suited me better. (And the short holiday at least gives a reason for them to take things quickly, I suppose.)
I loved the addition of Penny's blog posts, particularly the one about her panic attacks and the one about facing your fears - they all read well as blog posts in themselves in addition to moving the story forwards. Also while the novel is undoubtedly predictable, it's very well-paced, builds to a good climax which left me feeling satisfied, and the descriptions of New York made me wish I was there. It also manages to pack in some strong messages about friendship, standing up to people, and dealing with problems - both the panic attacks and the issues Poppy has with some of her classmates - without ever sounding preachy, which isn't all that easy. The classmates themselves, on the other hand, along with Noah's sister, are a little less impressive - they all seem fairly one-dimensional compared to the main characters.
The pacing and the writing style make it a quick, easy read - it's about 350 pages but I raced through it in a couple of hours or so. I think it's probably going to appeal more to the younger end of YA readers than to older teens (also the predictability will be less of an issue for people who don't read much, and the sky-high pre-order figures suggest there'll be a lot of them getting it!) , but overall it's definitely worth a look. I'd definitely be interested in a sequel!
I would be incredibly excited if even a small number of Zoella's fans went on to read some of the other wonderful light YA contemporary novels out there when they perhaps wouldn't have before reading this. A few I adore are Have a Little Faith by Candy Harper, My Family and Other Freaks by Carol Midgley and Geekhood: Mission Improbable by Andy Robb. If you were attracted to the book by Zoella's fashion blog, then Geek Girl by Holly Smale, Sophia Bennett's Threads series, and Code Red Lipstick by Sarah Sky are all great next steps!
This review was kindly given to us by the ever-generous Ya Yeah Yeah
You can read more book reviews or buy Girl Online by Zoe Sugg at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Girl Online by Zoe Sugg at Amazon.com.
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