“Hello, World! I’ve decided to start a blog…”
– Zoe Sugg, Girl Online
I had quite a chuckle to myself when I opened a parcel from Penguin Australia and found a review copy of Girl Online by Zoe Sugg. Up until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of Sugg or Zoella as she is affectionately known online. Sugg is a YouTube superstar with over 8.5 million fans who tune in to watch her video blog posts. She posts about fashion and beauty as well as her personal highs and lows and her struggle with anxiety. She has received many awards for her incredible online presence; her honesty is refreshing and has led her to become everyone’s favourite online friend.
I judged this book the minute it fell into my hands. It’s the kind of book I would normally avoid – thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey I have a very bad habit of writing these books off before they get a chance to prove themselves. I am happy to admit that this one caught me by surprise!
Penny Porter is a 15 year old girl who decides to start a blog as a way of dealing with life around her. She writes about boys and school and her increasing levels of anxiety. Penny is a typical teenage girl with many issues, all of which I can relate too…
… and the story that follows is your typical YA story. Penny gets swept off to New York (from Brighton, UK) with her family for the Christmas holidays where she meets a mysterious guitar-strumming stranger and finds herself falling in love! Penny documents everything about her trip abroad and her new romance with ‘Brooklyn Boy’. However, everything takes a turn for the worst when Noah’s life is revealed to Penny and her life is suddenly exposed all over the Internet. Girl Online is typical YA romance that tackles some surprising messages.
Sugg is no stranger to the highs and lows of being an online superstar and what I found most endearing about this book were the messages it deals with. The issues that Penny faces are very real for teenagers today – cyber-bullying, school yard friendships, self-esteem and mental health. Penny is a victim of cyber-bullying in two separate instances in the book and I think Sugg has managed to capture how destructive it can be. In an age where we live our lives online for all to see, Sugg shows the dark side of the online world and how destructive, hurtful and humiliating it can be when it all goes wrong. She writes that asking for help is always the right thing to do and that life isn’t always perfect. Friendships come and go, online popularity can provide startling highs and crippling lows and family is a constant, even when it’s not perfect.
Girl Online is a little formulaic and the writing is simple but it’s the kind of story, thanks to Sugg’s online success, that is going to get millions of young girls reading, even the ones who wouldn’t usually do so. It might be light and fluffy but with an honestly I actually found quite sweet!
Girl Online is published by Penguin Australia and is now available to buy in stores and online. Thank you to Penguin for sending a copy for me to review! You can find Zoe Sugg at http://www.zoella.co.uk/ and https://www.youtube.com/user/zoella280390.