Warning, warning! This review contains spoilers!
I’ll admit it. When I found out that Zoe (Zoella) Sugg was releasing a novel, I rolled my eyes a little bit. It just felt like a publicity ploy. But I watched her channel a lot when I was younger and I love seeing how successful she is now, so I didn’t hesitate to buy her books when they were released. As I’m writing this, the series stands at three books: Girl Online, Girl Online: On Tour, and Girl Online: Going Solo.
My honest opinion is that people tend to be either too generous or too harsh in their reviews, usually in response to Zoe herself. If they’re diehard fans, they’re very happy to rate them five stars without even having opened them, and if they’re more skeptical of Zoe and her fame, they’ll a little bit mean. As for the supposed ghost writer drama? I don’t really care. If the ghost writer herself doesn’t care, why should I?
The books follow a teenage girl, Penny. She’s a little awkward, but finds solace on her online blog. Then she meets superstar, Noah, and they fall madly in love. But their relationship is hardly perfect, and they both have a lot of other stuff going on.
After reading the first book, Girl Online, I had one immediate thought. And that thought was simply that I wish that the main character, Peggy, felt a bit further removed than Zoella’s online personality. Like Zoe, Peggy is a blogger. She suffers from anxiety. She lives in Brighton. She’s extremely family-orientated. She has a gay best friend.
I mean, I feel like I have to qualify this a bit. Because you know what? I get it. Representation is important. And it’s great to see that Zoe used her book to represent things that are important to her. Anxiety, I suppose, being the big one here. But it would’ve nice to see more of a distinction between Peggy and Zoe.
And I wish that Zoe hadn’t tried to fit so much into such a short series. Following a fairly standard romance plot, I feel like she didn’t have the opportunity to explore those important matters. Since the books focus so much on the romance, there’s little room for Zoe to really develop Peggy’s relationship with her anxiety. The blogging aspect falls to the wayside. And her bestie, Elliot’s, problems also jump up from time to time with little consistency.
When discussing these with a friend (who has also watched a fair few of Zoe’s videos), I said: I mean, sure, it’s not really my kind of book. But it’s quick. It’s fun. And it’s exactly what a lot of her viewers will want from her.
Having now read all three, I still stand by that. These aren’t the kind of books that are going to make you think deeply about life. The romance is too clichéd, the characters lack depth, and the writing style is far from poetic. But I don’t really think her fans were expecting the next Booker prize winner.
In the end, it’s a simple book. But it has enough of that Zoella charm to make you smile once in a while and has a pretty cute romance to boot. And the anxiety aspect, close to Zoe and many of her fans’ hearts, is likely to win over many a reader.
I do have to say that the last book, Going Solo, is probably the one that disappointed me the most. Why? Because it fell into one of my least favourite traps: the unnecessary love triangle. In my mind, an unnecessary love triangle is when despite multiple love interests, everyone knows who is going to end up with who. Seriously, with Noah and Penny’s break-up at the end of On Tour, there was a great opportunity to make this all about Penny. Penny and her blog. Penny and her life with anxiety. Penny and her friendship with Elliot. But nope. We had to throw in Callum. We had to throw him in, bring Noah back, and suffocate in the drama.
A lot of books aimed at younger audiences have this kind of love triangle, and I just hate them. I feel like it’s a total waste of time. For me, it’s the kind of device that adds little to the plot and absolutely nothing to character development. And, to be honest, for a book titled Going Solo, the huge focus on romance did seem a bit out of place.
Overall, these are a quick and sweet read. I didn’t love them, but I can see how they’re popular with younger readers. I just thought there were a lot of promising aspects sacrificed in the name of romance. In regards to the possibility of continuation? Well, I think it’s all wrapped up rather nicely now, but I wouldn’t say no to a completely new series.
How did you feel about this little trio? Do you think reviewers are being too harsh or too kind? Would you be happy to see this series continued?