I am a teenage girl living in a generation which is more ‘Team Internet’ than ‘Team Real Life’. You could be Instagram famous online and a geeky dork at school and no one would know. It is fair to say that I have learnt everything I know about makeup, beauty and clothes from YouTube and really look up to all of the beauty vloggers that I watch.
However, when I found out that one of my favourites, Zoella – real name, Zoe Sugg – was bringing out a book I was a little bit sceptical.
Even though Zoe has over 6 million people watching her videos, I had always felt like she was special to me and like my big sister. The fact that millions of other people were going to be able to read her words made me a kind of jealous.
I didn’t know much about Girl Online before reading it, but even so I was excited to read something that was created and written in one of my role models’ head.
Girl Online is about a teenage girl named Penny who has an anonymous blog on the internet where she feels like she can truly be herself. In real life she has a fake bitchy friend and a cute typical boy crush, she is a clumsy girl who always seems to embarrass herself. In a huge change of events she is whisked off to New York where she meets the gorgeous Noah and begins to fall in love.
I found this book hugely enticing and thought the plot twist towards the end was very gripping and really suited the whole manner of the book. I loved the way that blog posts were thrown into it to give it the edge of what it is like to grow up in an internet-driven society.
I did find that parts of the book were slightly sugar-coated, not quite realistic and a bit fairy-tale but the book as a whole I found really down to earth and charming.
I loved the way that Penny’s parents were really oblivious to the internet and when told that she had gone ‘Viral’ her father responded with ‘I thought you looked a bit peaky dear, would you like a Lemsip?’
Elliot, Penny’s gay best friend, is by far my favourite character in it. He is utterly relatable to, and his wit and charm put the book on a whole different level. He is the friend that every girl wants in their life and would do anything to have. Elliot definitely reminds of one of Zoe’s real YouTube friends with a hysterical personality: Tyler Oakley, who I do wish was my best friend and thoroughly suspect that this character was inspired by.
I also thought that Girl Online touched on the anxiety & panic attack issue rather beautifully. After suffering from my first panic attack just hours before starting this book, I found the way it tackled the issue openly and freely and not as if it was a disease was really fresh and helpful to read. I was quite worried after my first panic attack and reading this book helped me work out that it was nothing to be scared of.
Zoe Sugg has received a lot of bad press about how she had a ghost writer to help her with Girl Online. But so what? She has tried something new, and this is her first go. She does not write books for a living so I think she should be very proud to have produced a book as good as this even if she did need some help along the way. Don’t we all?
Zoella really is a great person – I find – to look up to, she is totally down to earth and refreshingly normal for a new celebrity (in a recent interview, she said ‘I don’t take drugs or drink alcohol: I can barely take paracetemol’). Many adults find it difficult to come to grips with the reason millions of us teens watch these people talking about their lives rather than indulging ourselves in a good book. I guess we simply love hearing people say things to the world that most of us are too afraid to say, and we love to be able to learn things from the security of a phone.
This is a new generation. Zoella and Girl Online are just the start.
Thanks very much to our guest reviewer, Julia Brookes, for this very insightful review.