Book Review: Girl Online by Zoe Sugg (Zoella)
Sunday, 21 December 2014
Girl Online by Zoe Sugg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Actual rating: 3.5 stars
Okay, so we all know what a great YouTuber Zoella is, but now let’s just see what a great writer she is... or if she can actually write, that is.
To summarise, this book is about fifteen year old Penny Porter from Brighton who has an anonymous blog called ‘Girl Online’ where she blogs about everything that involve friendship, boys family and her panic attacks. Things start getting really bad for Penny, but then her family takes her on a business trip to New York, where she meets Noah. But Noah has a secret that could threaten Penny’s cover.
(I get kind of spoilery in this review, so beware)
For the first quarter of this book, I actually found myself enjoying it because I just found it really cute. It’s not the kind of book I’d like, especially since I’m not in the demographic that this book is aimed at. Penny is a wishy-washy character but she is really cute and quirky and has a quirky sense of style (like Zoe) but she is unrealistically clumsy. I honestly don’t know how anyone could be that clumsy. I mean seriously. This girl is worst than Bella. Penny is a disaster just waiting to happen.
From the moment, I read the summary before this got released. I knew this book has got cliché written all over it and I wasn’t wrong. Where to start? The main character, she’s shy, awkward, clumsy and unconfident. She gets into so many awkward situations and says the wrong things all the time, making herself embarrassed. There’s the perfect parents, gay best friend (who I assume is Tyler Oakley), nasty former best friend and meets a boy who happens to have a lot of things in common. Convenient much? Very much so.
A lot of people who have reviewed this have said that Penny is a Mary Sue of Zoe Sugg. I feel like Penny is different from Zoe but I do see the similarities. It’s very evident that Zoe has included a lot of things she loves into Penny, which kind of makes her a Mary Sue. Its things like fairy lights, scented candles, bath bombs and the fact she’s from Brighton, which makes me think ‘oh what a coincidence, Zoe loves those things too!’ But then again, John Green does the same thing with his characters. If you’ve seen the book trailer, you can see that the illustration of Penny looks exactly like Zoe! Ironic thing – Penny’s meant to have red hair, whereas in the trailer, its dark brown.
I knew Noah’s secret would be underwhelming and I was right. In the book’s summary, it says ‘guitar-strumming American.’ That could only mean one thing – Noah’s a musician! I actually really really liked how Penny and Noah met. It was so damn cute, I loved it. I actually felt warm and fuzzy inside. Basically Noah was playing the guitar and singing something sad. Penny was just taking pictures (she loves photography and is the semi-official photographer for the Downtown Abbey wedding) and then she just followed the sound. The relationship between Penny and Noah is really sweet and adorable. I wasn’t too attached to any of these characters; to be honest they were one-dimensional.
Every time, Penny makes a stupid mistake, I feel as though I have to let her off because she is only fifteen. Usually when I criticise a character, I will just say how stupid they were, but you are allowed to screw up every now and again because how else are you going to learn? No one was born perfect. Our imperfections are what make us human.
I actually did like Penny’s blog posts because I feel they are very relatable and it’s nice when you’re a teenager, you can read about someone else going through the same thing as you. I don’t think I had something to read like that when I was a teenager. YouTube wasn’t mainstream yet and I wasn’t aware of blogs.
The posts about Noah and soul mates were really cringey to say the least. She sounds so awfully naïve and infatuated. “Keep believing in fairy tales”? That's such bad advice. Insta-love is very much present in the book, unfortunately. You know how much I hate insta-love. But Penny is only fifteen after all... she’s got a lot to learn.
The thing that annoyed me about Penny was that she keeps saying to herself that she must be dreaming and keeps pinching herself. Can this girl not distinguish between a dream and reality? About the writing – it is very amateurish and it does sound like I’m reading the perspective of a thirteen year old.
I got mid-way into the book and it was so incredibly cheesy, argh. Kind of cringey and kind of making me want to gag. It didn’t feel real; it felt like a Disney film. Everything was way too perfect, falling into place and I got a bit bored to be honest. Oh what a coincidence that the vinyl that Penny brought for Noah is an Artist that he really likes, what are the chances?!
The last quarter of the book was a plot twist and I really enjoyed reading it. It dealt with issues like cyber bullying and it was interesting to see how Penny is able to deal with that kind of viral attention. We all know that people on the internet are really mean and horrible. Also the media can take one thing (Penny’s blog for instance), twist it, lie and publish it an article. It was great that she was able to face her fears and keep her anxiety under control.
“Every time you post something online, you have a choice.” Penny wrote this line in her blog. Zoe said this exact line in her vlog and her blog and she has incorporated it in her book. I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just pointing it out.
There has already been a lot of talk that Zoe did not write this book alone and that it is ghostwritten. She had help from her editorial team, namely a YA author called Siobhan Curham, who wrote this within six weeks. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. I thought you have to write a book yourself and then your editor will proofread it. It's the same thing with Artists, initially I assumed that all Artists HAD to compose and write their own music.
The point is that Zoe claims that she wrote it but all these articles make it seem like Curham wrote it all. I guess we’ll never know what went on in the writing/editing process whether Zoe wrote it or not. Nonetheless, it didn't stop everyone buying it, making it a no.1 top seller and knocking J.K Rowling off the top spot. WHAT!
It's a 3.5 stars from me. I can’t give it a 4 because it was too cheesy for me in the middle of the book but I did enjoy it nonetheless. Girl Online is currently only £5 for hardcover on Amazon, so I thought WTH I’ll get it. Don’t read it if you’re expecting something original and don’t read it if you hate clichés because it won’t be the book for you. Ironically those are the two things I dislike the most about books! Read it, if you don’t mind it being a cliché. This book will appeal to a younger audience (ages 12-16). I read it because the summary sounded really cute. I do like Zoella and enjoy her YouTube videos. This book wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t the best book I’ve read. It was just okay for a first novel and I will probably read the second book.
The message behind the book is that you should be happy for you are you and to not worry about what other people think.
All in all, well done Zoe for writing a book (even if she had a lot of help in the process).
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