Bentley’s Grade: B
Title: Girl Online
Author: Zoe Sugg
Publisher and Date: Keywords Press 2014
Penny Porter, Brighton UK high school student, starts a blog so that she has a place where she can be her real self—while remaining anonymous, of course. Her anonymity only lasts a short time because soon after returning home from a family/work trip to New York City, someone exposes Penny as “Girl Online.” This revelation threatens the relationships in her life, including her newest relationship with Noah. It doesn’t take long for Penny to realize that social media is both a source of comfort and a source of anxiety, depending on who’s on the other side of the screen.
Full disclosure, I wanted to dislike this book. I’m sceptical of Youtubers and their attempts to write books, but I enjoyed Girl Online. The plot is cliché and predictable; however, the characters are very likeable, so I think the sweet relationship dynamics between Penny and the people she loves overshadow the predictability factor.
Girl Online is certainly an example of art imitating life. Zoe draws a lot of inspiration from her own life in Brighton: anxiety, NYC, Margherita pizza, pasta, a witty dad who cooks, Choccywoccydoodah, baths, bath bombs, autumn, autumnal colours, scented candles, a creative mother, a kind brother, a strong sense of family… as I write this list, I realize how many Zoella vlogs I must’ve watched over the years in order to see these similarities between Penny and Zoe—how long have I been watching the vlogs?? I’m not a Zoella super-fan, but I imagine that if I were, I would enjoy the book that much more.
I think, quite obviously, as a thirty-something woman, I’m not the book’s target demographic. It’s clearly intended for younger, teen readers. And that’s probably what I admire most about Zoe’s choice to write a book: it has likely inspired a great deal of her (12 million) subscribers to read, and maybe even, to write a book one day. I also appreciate her attempt to tackle some big issues in Girl Online (anxiety, mental health, homophobia, homosexuality, bullying, cyber bullying, etc.), which will hopefully open the doors for some young readers to talk about and maybe even begin to work through some of the issues they might be facing.
Overall, Girl Online is a light, lovely romance story about a girl facing her anxieties—I mean, who doesn’t want to overcome their fears and give their bullies some just desserts? I look forward to reading the next two in this series.
What did you think? Leave a comment below.