Title: Girl Online
Author: Zoe Sugg/Zoella
Rating: Young Adult Literature, Children Literature, YouTuber Fiction
“Every time you post something online you have a choice. You can either make it something that adds to the happiness levels in the world—or you can make it something that takes away.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or perhaps just don’t know about the modern phenomena of the YouTuber, you would know who Zoella, or Zoe Sugg is. But for those who are unaware, I’ll give you a brief update.
Zoella is a beauty/lifestyle vlogger and online presence that is one of the most famous English YouTubers to date. With nearly 9 million subscribers, over 500 million video views, and nearly 4 million Twitter Followers, she has been crowned the ‘Queen of YouTube’, by a number of articles.
To get a fuller picture, I’ll link some articles below for your casual reading.
And, last year, this bubbly twenty-five year old released her debut novel, ‘Girl Online’. And in October, Girl Online: On Tour is to be released. So I thought I’d do my own review of the debut book, just to prepare readers for the sequel.
So meet Penny. Under the alias, Girl online, Penny blogs about her hidden feelings and personal experiences with friendship, boys, school drama, family issues and her recent panic attacks that are slowly beginning to take over her life. And when things go from bad to worse, her family decide to take her away to New York for a break away from normality. Whilst there she meets the gorgeous, guitar-strumming Noah. And suddenly, Penny is falling in love. And, of course, writing everything about it on her blog.
But she’s not the only one that has a secret. Noah has his own secret, and this one could be one to threaten to ruin Penny’s cover – and her closest friendship – forever
So, as you can see, Girl Online fits in with the generalised, chick-lit-YA style of novel, as well as being an obvious tie in to Zoella’s own experiences – as starting off as a blogger, and moving onto a bigger audience on YouTube. This novel is a pretty heart-warming tale of young love, that does grip the reader at the end of each chapter, as well as having an ending that is both satisfactory as a stand-alone book, but could open up for possible sequels.
However, this novel features something that’s unique to the modern young adult market, as it deals with issues and pressures that teens nowadays would relate too – such as cyber-bullying, an online presence conflicting with the real self, issues with sexuality and then ‘coming-out’, the loss of friendships, mental illnesses and the first dizzy dabbles of love – and it does this with the sensitivity and knowledge that one would expect Zoella, as a significant idol for many young girls, would deal with. Now, it was revealed after publication that this novel was ghost-written, which did throw up some criticism from Suggs’ fans, but it is clear that despite not writing it, the ideas and plot idea is personal to Zoe.
I found the story arc of panic attacks and anxiety disorders to be something that I could seriously relate too. It wasn’t hidden under a guise of anything, but out there in the bleak daylight. The physical and mental effects of going through a panic attack was well-documented, and Penny does go through the same worry about having them as millions of people around the globe have, whilst dealing with them. And also, in a little side-note, Noah gives Penny a coping strategy to dealing with panic attacks that I would be interested to know if it works, as this could be a really important piece of knowledge that Zoe has shared out to her audience.
For the actual writing, I was pleasantly surprised. Now, as I said before, this is a ghost-written piece of text, but the writer has clearly written in a way that imitates the way that Zoe talks, writes her blogs and has just an overall Zoe-esque vibe. This is no great piece of literature, so don’t put it up there. It fits more into the realm of YA literature, as it’s easy to understand, and the writing doesn’t offer any surprises or plot spoilers. Like most YA novels, there are clichés and corny bits that did make me roll my eyes, and the whole episode where there was farting did make me a bit exasperated, but it was definitely a ‘safe’ story, so all ages could read it. Even a ten-year old could read it.
And for characterisation, I was equally as surprised to how developed they were. I did find myself wanting a boy like Noah in my life, and definitely wanting a friend like Elliot’s – who is Penny’s best friend and overall rock of support. I thought that Zoe did also bring the romance to life. She made the feelings very real, and made you, as the writer be immersed into the emotions that Penny was feel. You felt excited when Penny did, or sad or worried whenever she felt that. And that’s a good test of a good story.
Through my reading of the text, Zoe puts her whole heart-and-soul in this narrative, and she poignantly includes blog posts that do sound a lot like her own. But it was one line that made me think ‘ah, this is Zoe talking to us, not Penny’, and it was the line:
Everytime you post something online you have a choice.
For me, this is crucial tip that Zoe is sharing out to her readers and fans. Because there is that choice – that choice that you as the reader, or internet-browser, or blogger or whatever, need to keep in the back of your mind. You have a choice about what you think is right to share online, and you need to have limits. If you think that sharing personal information is what you want to do, just remember how it could affect you in the future.
You have that choice.
And nobody should ever pressure you into making up your mind about what you think is right and wrong.
This novel did surprise me in how much I would love it, and how much it made me want read on well into the night and not want to put it down. I’ve been a fan of Zoe for a few years now, and I do own some pieces from her cosmetics line which also did surprise me over the quality of the products. So, I’d happily recommend and pass this novel onto other readers. I’ll continue to support Zoella through whatever she does, and I am excited for the next installment to come out. But be aware. This isn’t a great piece of literature, but it never puts on a front saying it will.
So, if you want a novel that is heart-warming, addictive, romantic,
clichéd and a bit corny in the right places – then go to your local bookshop and pick up ‘Girl Online’.