by Zoe Sugg (& Siobhan Curham)
Published: 25th November 2014
I had no idea GirlOnline would take off the way it has – I can’t believe I now have 5432 followers, thanks so much! – and the thought of opening up to you all about this is terrifying, but here goes…
Penny has a secret.
Under the alias GirlOnline, she blogs about school dramas, boys, her mad, whirlwind family – and the panic attacks she’s suffered from lately. When things go from bad to worse, her family whisks her away to New York, where she meets the gorgeous, guitar-strumming Noah. Suddenly Penny is falling in love – and capturing every moment of it on her blog.
But Noah has a secret too. One that threatens to ruin Penny’s cover – and her closest friendship – forever.
I can’t begin this review without addressing the elephant in the room. This book has a lot of controversy surrounding it, as the publishers of this book have revealed that it has been ghost written. With that being said, I’m just going to review the story for what it is rather than who it was written by.
I must say, I was quite interested to read this book and it was one of the few books I actually pre-ordered in 2014. When I received it, I began reading it pretty quickly. I’m not really sure what I expected so it’s difficult to say if I’m disappointed or not. I did enjoy the book, but I did find some things that I didn’t enjoy as much.
So, to begin I will just explain a little bit about the books premise, as you can see from the blurb, this book follows Penny and her online blog as she deals with anxiety, her peers and an overseas trip. I should mention, the author (or part author?) of this book began by running a blog, and then went on to become a popular Youtube personality, whom I’ve followed since I was back in Uni.
I feel the need to mention this because the book reads very autobiographical, and the character Penny feels like an extension of Zoe. This a double edged sword for me, it was nice reading a character that felt familiar but it was also hard to disassociate the author from the character.
I would say that this novel is aimed at a younger audience, most likely the target audience of Zoe’s videos, around 12-16. This, however, doesn’t mean that an adult can’t read this and appreciate or enjoy it. After all, I’m 25 and I enjoyed it.
In terms of the plot, I thought it was quite predictable and at times unrealistic. This was emphasised by the pace of the novel. Everything happened so quickly, and the romance was, for me, suddenly intense. I thought a lot of the characters were cliché at times, which went hand in hand with the predictable plot. I’ve seen these stereotyped characters repeatedly, so much so, that when they appear I immediately know the purpose of the character, and how they’ll affect the plot. As I mentioned, this book is very fast paced and I found it engaging enough to read with 24 hours.
This book has be praised for emphasising the issues that teenagers are dealing with, including the consequences of social media and the platform it creates for bullies. I enjoyed this aspect, as it an eye opener for a younger audience. It delivers a good message in terms of loving yourself for who you are, so I can’t fault it
for that. The main character also deals with anxiety issues, including panic attacks. This will be helpful for younger people that perhaps don’t understand the things that may be happening to them. I personally don’t suffer from anxiety so I can’t comment on whether or not it’s described well but I know someone that does, and they said that it’s approached well if not a little too briefly.
Overall, I feel that I enjoyed this book. It definitely, in my opinion, has its flaws but I think this book will be appreciated more by a younger audience. I’d recommend this for teenagers that may be able to better identify with the characters.
If you’d like to grab yourself a copy: Amazon link