Girl Online has been at the centre of endless controversy: YouTube superstar Zoella – AKA Zoe Sugg – wrote the book with the help of a ghost-writer. No big deal, right? Wrong: the small issue of the ghost-writer – whose existence was only confirmed after the book’s publication and record-breaking sales – saw endless debate sparked, outrage from some of Zoe’s hardcore fanbase and even resulted in her ‘quitting’ the Internet for a few days. Eek.
But hey ho, it all seems to have died down now – that’s yesterday’s news. Today’s news is that the book, despite being totally predictable and, at times, toe-curlingly cringe-inducing, is very, very readable.
I read it in just over 24 hours and it reminded me of the Jacqueline Wilson books I used to devour as a young teenager: non-committal, frothy and lacking in any real life-lesson other than that pop stars generally have a tragic back-story. It was a fun read, however, and it’s not hard to see why it’s been so popular with Zoe’s teenage’d army of fans. (So much so it broke the record for highest first week sales for a debut author since records began. No biggie…)
The plot in a nutshell: 15-year-old Penny lives in Brighton, runs a secret blog and suffers with panic attacks (so far, so familiar: Zoe lives in Brighton and has been open about her panic attacks). A chance encounter in her parents’ wedding shop results in Penny and her family being whisked off to New York for a magical Christmas they’ll never forget. Throw in a dreamy ‘rock-god-tastic’ guitarist (with a suitably dreamy ‘rock-god-tastic’ name: Noah), a handful of jealous friends and a last-minute twist, and it’s quite the page-turner.
So far, so twee: but Zoe – with or without the help of the ghost-writer – tackles head-on a myriad of issues which teenage girls will be able to relate to. Tired friendships, body hang-ups, sexuality issues, social media stress… It’s all covered, along with a generous sprinkle of optimism and a hearty dash of OMG moments. There’s a sequel coming in 2015 and it’ll be interesting to see if heroine Penny is able to keep her love-affair with international rock god Noah (who conveniently, no one identifies until the very end of the novel) a go-go.
Definitely worth a read, especially if, like me, you’re fascinated by Zoe’s impossibly fantastic rise to the top online.
Girl Online is available to buy here.