It’s okay to feel anxious, just allow it to be and it will start to fade away – Zoe Sugg.
Now then, before anybody comments or critiques about me having read the duology clearly aimed at impressionable teens (about a decade younger than me!), I do love a good teenage story that is easy to read and follow, making my inner tween (from so long ago) sigh with glee. There was a controversy that Zoe Sugg – Zoella – didn’t write Girl Online completely; that she had a little (or a lot – who knows) help from a ghost writer. Either way, she’s probably helped a lot of young people through her sugar-coated teenage love story where the protagonist suffers from anxiety: a factor that not many teenage authors have created as one of their main themes.
Girl Online tells the story of Penny, a fifteen-year-old school girl from Brighton who is from the perfect two-adult-two-children family with a gay best friend who lives right next door. She is an anonymous blogger, who has thousands of followers online, with a passion for photography. Her parents are wedding planners and by a chance of a lifetime, go to New York to organise a Downton Abbey themed wedding where Penny meets eighteen-year-old Noah. They immediately hit it off. Penny gets to stay with Noah’s family for Christmas before there is a shock of finding out Noah is in fact a famous YouTube musician with a secret life.
The storyline itself is far-fetched. I can’t think of any fifteen year old who would have that amazing, rollercoaster of a ride to New York, only to find the love of her life and fall head-over-heels for him so quickly. However, bearing the target audience in mind, this could very well happen for young teenage girls nowadays – the head-over-heels part. They tend to become obsessive over boys and makeup – ultimately growing up – far too early. Penny gives long, descriptive accounts of everything about Noah – he becomes her everything which is understandable for young love, but quite excessive.
In New York, everything goes perfectly for Penny. She meets a great guy, she becomes noticed as a photographer at the wedding, she gets to see some of the sights of New York in just one day, stay with her love interest’s family… It seems a little too perfect for a fifteen year old. I have to also point out that the age gap was a little too much for me. I don’t know why but fifteen and eighteen just sound worlds apart in terms of hormones, ideas, school and everything else. When she turns sixteen, it’s a lot better.
The fact that Penny has anxiety hasn’t gone unnoticed. It is something that resonates with me, which I do want to explore a little bit later in the post.
Despite the pure fantastical element of real life, I really enjoyed the book. Zoe Sugg’s personality really shined through the character of Penny, almost as though she was writing it about herself, which writers do do sometimes to make it that little bit more real. It was an addiction – one that I literally could not put down. I wanted to see where life took her next… to Girl Online On Tour.
GIRL ONLINE ON TOUR
The second instalment had me reading it until 2.30am. I needed to see how it ended.
There was more of a real element in the sequel. Penny grew more as a character, she became her own person as she realised what she wanted from her own life, rather than simply following that of her rock star boyfriend. She made her own decisions, she went off exploring some cities of Europe on her own. Most importantly, she stood up for herself – on more than one occasion – which was probably the best thing about Girl Online On Tour and Penny herself.
Some of the mystery and sabotage were a little far fetched once more, but it added a bit of fun to the novel as a whole – always guessing who it was that was emailing her and making threats. The person who it was didn’t actually cross my mind – and I’m usually good at guessing the who dunnits.
Other life issues were brought up: anxiety again (more later) and being in the closet as a gay teenager alongside being a gay teenager in love with someone who isn’t completely honest with himself or his loved ones. All the issues in Girl Online & Girl Online On Tour completely resonate in every day life which is why it is such an important story for young people to read.
Reading these books has let me peek into the life of a person who has anxiety. I don’t have it, and I’m so lucky and blessed that I don’t, but I do have loved ones close to me who suffer from it every day. I couldn’t imagine waking up in the morning with a tight chest and a splitting headache, or extreme tiredness coming over me like a wave. Reading from Penny’s point of view helped me realise that there is a hell of a lot more to anxiety than people let on. Now, I’m trying to find out and understand triggers and how to help people I care about. It’s hard to watch a person you love go through something like anxiety (not that it goes away), and it’s even harder when you don’t know how you can help them. So a little thanks to Zoe Sugg for opening the door to anxiety in young adult literature. It’s something that should be talked about more often and more openly.
What are your thoughts on Girl Online? And about anxiety?
Love, Faye x
One last thing: I love Elliot. He is definitely the best character.