Girl Online by Zoe Sugg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
*I reviewed this book for NetGalley*
Girl Online follows a girl named Penny from Brighton in the UK, who suffers from anxiety and vents her feelings and shares her thoughts on the anonymous blog as “Girl Online”. She’s a teenager, so she deals with a lot of drama from other pupils, and has to deal with panic attacks and other sources of anxiety.
Girl Online is written by Zoe Sugg, a YouTube personality known as Zoella. I have followed her videos for the past year or so, and I was interested to see what her book was about. If you weren’t aware, there is a controversy surrounding this book, since many believed that is written by a ghostwriter.
As I began the book, I wasn’t particularly optimistic. I found that the book seems to be written by an adult, using out of date words, or vocabulary that teenagers don’t use. Also, the characters don’t seem to act in a way teenagers do. It feels inauthentic, and it is hard to believe that this story could happen to someone in real life. The characters are also supposed to be around year 11 in the UK, 15 or 16 years old, but the way the story’s written feels as though they are 12 or 13.
Also, since I follow Zoe on YouTube, I am aware that she lives in Brighton, deals with anxiety, and loves Christmas. It seems like she projects her experiences with anxiety, living in Brighton, and loving Christmas, rather than relating it to the characters. I felt as though she was trying too hard to portray her life experiences, rather than convey the experiences of a character who just happens to deal with anxiety like her.
What I did like was reading about the panic attacks and anxiety through the book, written by someone who faces anxiety. I enjoyed being able to understand more of the mindset of someone who has anxiety, which is hard to get from an outside source. As an online personality, I understood some of the things she wrote about, such as when she said “I didn’t do my usual thing of waiting to see if it got any comments or shares”. I enjoyed the relationship between Penny and her guy best friend, Elliot.
So, things I didn’t like about the book. The awkward phrasing, such as “all glossy chestnut hair and pouting”, “his blue eyes are sparkling like the sea in the winter sunshine”. Also, the relationship between Penny and the love interest in this novel was very insta-love. They hung out for about 6 hours, realized they had so much in common and were PERFECT for each other, and a few days later were in love. Also, in one of Penny’s blog posts, she mentions how life is going absolutely wonderful, and her life’s been completely turned around because she met a guy. This does not make me like this book, nor do I believe it’s true. Once you meet someone, your life isn’t fixed because of them. That is an untrue and unhealthy thought for teenagers to have, and I don’t think mentioning it in a book while positively impact the readers.
Also, I don’t think the author(s) understood that Americans and British people speak differently. At one minute, “Brooklyn boy” is judging Penny for using very British terms, but later he himself says something extremely British. Research should’ve been required! A lot of things in this novel, I knew were going to happen way ahead of when they did, so the book was pretty predictable. Not ALL the time, but very easy to guess.
This was one of those books where the characters are in relationships, and it seems okay by the middle, so you have to wait a while for conflict to surface and be resolved within the last 50 pages. So, the pacing wasn’t great. It felt like a super cheerful fanfic at times, seeing the best parts of the relationship, then quickly through itself into drama.
So, overall, I’m giving it a 2.5 stars. It could have been a lot better, and much more realistic. I may continue the series, because I would like to know what happens to the characters, but I don’t believe this book accurately captured the teenage experience. Some parts were relatable, but it felt, say it with me everyone, “INAUTHENTIC!”
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