Penny has a secret.
Under the alias Girl Online, 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.
Despite not falling within the intended readership age of 10 – 14 I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Girl Online and had I been 9 or 10 years younger I’d have fallen head over heals in love with this book and devoured it over and over. Girl Online is full of fun, romance, friend drama, online drama, embarrassing moments, and a huge heart.
I think that one of the most important things about Girl Online is its portrayal of anxiety because growing up there weren’t really any books that I felt talked about anxiety or panic attacks in a way that I could relate to. Zoe Sugg also suffers with anxiety and has spoken openly about her own experiences. I’m pleased that Zoe has used her book as another platform to talk about anxiety and panic attacks, and I think that Girl Online provides help and reassurance to both sufferers by showing that other people feel the same, and non-sufferers by allowing them to really experience how a sufferer feels.
In many ways I think that Girl Online is quite similar to Jacqueline Wilson’s stories as both authors discuss ‘real life’ issues within the context of a relatively normal setting. Of course, there are still elements of this book that are very much fictional but I think that it’s important for us to appreciate how realistically anxiety is dealt with in Girl Online. Had this book been around 10 years ago, I’d have felt much more confident about my own anxiety which would have taken away the embarrassment that I felt for years.
Another aspect of Girl Online that I enjoyed was that there is an established moral to the story because sometimes young teen fiction can contain some really unpleasant characters or circumstances but then fails to resolve anything. Whilst there was plenty of teenage bitchiness, the ending was sweet, satisfying, and left me feeling happy and warm inside. Certainly, there will be have been people who wanted more from the story but this book isn’t a piece of deep literature nor is it trying to be.
To me, it’s important that books for younger readers contain plenty of resolve because the ages 10 – 14 can be the hardest years of our lives and I think that young teens deserve to read books that make them feel good about themselves. Zoe has done a really good job of addressing and resolving the issues that affect many young people and as well as Penny’s anxiety, body confidence, sexuality, friendships, and family are all touched on throughout.
All Girl Online needed to be is an interesting and fun story, and the fact that it deals with so many issues in such a compassionate and thorough way shows that Zoe and Penguin have really taken on the duty of care that comes with writing a book for young teens. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone aged 10 to 14, but also to those who are a little older but who enjoy the gentle and caring aspects of children’s fiction. It’s also the perfect time to re-read Girl Online as its sequel, Girl Online: On Tour will be published on October 20th!