Thoughts on Pages #15: Girl Online

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg (better known as Zoella on YouTube) is a coming-of-age novel that's received quite a bit of buzz over the past few months (I'll be talking about this buzz at the end of my review, but just know that it has nothing to do with what I thought of the story itself).

This book was an interesting one. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but I did find some things about it that irked me just a bit.

(There may be spoilers in the "My Thoughts" section of this review.)


"From YouTube sensation Zoella comes a debut coming-of-age novel that perfectly captures what it means to grow up and fall in love in today’s digital world. Girl Online is the first book to be published by Keywords Press, an imprint under Simon & Schuster dedicated to today’s digital stars.

I have this dream that, secretly, all teenage girls feel exactly like me. And maybe one day, when we realize that we all feel the same, we can all stop pretending we’re something we’re not. That would be awesome. But until that day, I’m going to keep it real on this blog and keep it unreal in “real” life.

Penny has a secret. 

Under the alias GirlOnline, Penny blogs her hidden feelings about friendship, boys, high school drama, her quirky family, and the panic attacks that have begun to take over her life. When things go from bad to worse at school, her parents accept an opportunity to whisk the family away for Christmas at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. There, she meets Noah, a gorgeous, guitar-strumming American. Suddenly Penny is falling in love—and capturing every moment she spends with “Brooklyn Boy” on her blog.

But Noah has a secret, too, one that threatens to ruin Penny’s cover—and her closest friendship—forever.

Award-winning and influential YouTube vlogger Zoe Sugg delivers a heartfelt coming-of-age novel that perfectly captures the highs and lows of first love, friendship, and growing up in the digital age."

(From Amazon)


The main characters are actually quite well-written, especially Penny. Her actions make sense for her age (she's 15-16), and she's believable. Her anxiety is also handled very well and with great care, and it's nice to see that her family is very supportive of her and make sure that she's okay whenever she's in stressful situations.

The side characters are nice, but are okay in terms of any kind of development. We only really get to meet and get to know Penny, her family, Elliot (Penny's best guy friend), Noah (the boy she meets in New York), his family, Meghan (Penny's childhood best friend who's been acting different these mean) and Ollie (Penny's high school crush).

The romance is very, very sweet on the page, and I was grinning at a lot of moments in this book. :) That being said, though, the way it panned out felt a little hard to believe.


The story takes place in Brighton, England (where Zoella actually lives) and New York City. I enjoyed both of these settings, and thought they were written quite well.

There was one thing that irked me, though. One character is from the South, and she talked about Charleston, South Carolina. However, it was spelled "Charlston" in the book. I'm wondering if this was a typo, or if this is how they'd spell it if it were a city in England? (If you're from the UK and are reading this, let me know in the comments, please? :] ) That was really the editor in me nitpicking, though. I really did enjoy the setting.

My Thoughts

Okay. I know that many authors write what they know, and I understand that it's a good idea to do so (in fact, I've followed that principle in short stories I've dabbled in/written). However, I kind of had a feeling that this would be taken literally in Girl Online...and sure enough, I was right. 

Girl Online is about a girl who starts out writing a blog, which takes her on grand, but crazy adventures. Zoella also started out as a blogger...see where I'm going? (Also, YouTube is involved in the story in a huge way, which I'd called from the beginning). This same thing happened with Beneath the Glitter, written by sisters and YouTubers Elle and Blair Fowler, but even more so.

The story itself was a lot of fun to read. In fact, it read like a romantic comedy for the first 3/4 of the novel. However, the ending (about the last 80 pages or so) felt so, so rushed for some reason. Maybe it was the twist ending? 

Overall, I give Girl Online by Zoe Sugg four photos on film out of five. It was a fun, easy read, and I have a feeling that younger audiences will really enjoy it, too.

My Extended Thoughts on Ghostwriting

I wanted to keep this separate from the main review, just because I don't think that the news surrounding this novel affected the way I viewed at the story. In fact, I read it after all of the news came out that this book is partially ghostwritten.

Now, according to the article I linked above, Zoe created the characters and story, but I'm not sure how much of the plot was ghostwritten. Regardless, I don't have a problem with ghostwritten novels; if a personality or celebrity needs help in writing a project like a novel, it totally makes sense to hire that help. I feel like the only reason this is really gaining such massive press is because of Zoe's popularity on YouTube. I can understand younger girls thinking that Zoe didn't "write" the book, but I'm also glad that the press I've is explaining that ghostwriting is perfectly normal and actually commonplace. Personally, I'm just happy that Zoe at least came up with the characters and story. 

Did you read Girl Online? What do you think of the practice of ghostwriting?

Also, if you want to see what I'm reading right now and what I'm into, come on over to my Goodreads page! Also, feel free to leave any recommendations in the comments. :)

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