Published by: Keyword Press on November 25, 2014
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
I had no idea Girl Online would take off the way it has—I can't believe I now have 5432 followers, thanks so much!—and the thought of opening up to you all about this is terrifying, but here goes...
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.
Upon starting Girl Online, my first impressions were:
- This author uses way too many exclamation marks.
- This book feels extremely childish.
I eventually got over that first point. Well, either I “got over” it or the author stopped using so many exclamation marks… But that second point continued throughout the story.
Maybe part of it is my fault. I feel like a lot of the YA books out there feature 16-18 year old main characters, but they always sound so mature. They could pass for more like 18-20. However, in Girl Online, the main character Penny was only 15… and she sounded like it (if not younger). Everything about her just screamed “child”. It felt like a very young young adult book (or old middle grade). Sometimes she acted more like 13 or 14. The four year old often acted more grown up than Penny did.
So maybe this rating is my fault. At 23, I’m not the target audience, but I read it anyway expecting it to be a bit “older” feeling, like many YA books are. Only it wasn’t.
Penny was almost too clumsy
I think this is one of the reasons why the book felt so childish. Penny was ridiculously clumsy… to the point where I didn’t believe it. I was rolling my eyes.
“It’s at exactly this moment that I fall into a hole. OK, it’s not a big hole and I don’t actually disappear inside it or anything, but I do catch my foot and end up tumbling forward—making me look about as attractive and sophisticated as a Saturday-night drunk. That’s one thing I hate about Brighton, where I live. It seems to be full of holes that exist just for me to fall into!”
“But then, as I gather up mine and Elliot’s coats, I trip on my scarf and crash into a waitress carrying a tray of toasted paninis.”
These are just two examples, but there are SO many more. I even left out the most ridiculous one.
They happened ALL the time. It just got old, you know?
Don’t be an apologetic blogger
I read an awesome post about this lately and sadly I can’t find the URL. Edit: here it is! But the idea is that bloggers shouldn’t apologize for what they write about. This is YOUR blog. Own it. Love it. Don’t apologize for it.
I love that idea, and that’s why I was irked at some of Penny’s blog posts:
“I hope you don’t mind me writing about this. I promise I’ll get back to my usual self next week.”
You don’t need your readers’ permission to write about something. You don’t have to “hope they don’t mind”. You don’t have to promise to “go back to normal” next week. Write about what you want and OWN it. Don’t worry about it fitting your audience or being a good post.
Do people really not know what panic attacks are?
I don’t have panic attacks, so I hope this isn’t insensitive or anything… but do some people really not know what panic attacks are? I’d have thought that the symptoms are pretty clear. Or if not, then a quick Google of the symptoms would immediately lead you to “panic attack”. Surely a blogger is savvy enough to do a quick Google search?
Well, Penny has moments where she feels like the world is closing in on her. She can’t breathe. She feels trapped. She can’t think or process what’s going on. She’s just stuck in this space that feels like it’s getting smaller and smaller.
Sounds like a clear panic attack to me. I found it odd that Penny had no idea what was happening to her, and odder still that she wouldn’t have thought to Google the symptoms. When something weird happens to me, the first thing I do is Google it. 99% of the time I get an immediate answer. And yet, Penny didn’t find out what was happening until she blogged about it. Then:
“In a way, it’s nice to know that ‘panic attacks’ are an actual thing and not just my mind going crazy.”
Really? You didn’t know they were “a thing”?
The book was RIDDLED with lines, words, and paragraphs that made the whole thing feel childish. It made me think that Penny was actually 13 or at least a pretty immature 15 year old. Here are a few samples:
“I glance at Ollie, wondering if maybe I haven’t woken up yet and everything that’s happened so far has just been a dream. I pinch my leg under the table to check— a little too hard.”
Who ACTUALLY pinches themselves to see if they’re in a dream? Do people really do that?
“I’d expected the skyscrapers but I hadn’t expected them to be quite so sky-scraping.”
As my excitement starts to build, I feel the urge to dance. I grab the remote and turn on the TV. MTV is playing nonstop Christmas tunes. I start dancing around the room to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” I dance and dance until I’ve shaken off the horrible residue from my dream. Then I collapse down onto my bed and grin at my doll.
“Happy Christmas,” I whisper to her breathlessly.
Okay, you want to have a dance party? That’s fine. I’m sure people do it. But for me, this was just one more thing that made the book feel childish.
Yep, it’s insta-love
“Then I do look up, and for a split second we’re staring into each other’s eyes. And click—I feel another part of me slotting into place with him.”
Penny and super-handsome-rockstar-dude know each other for like ONE DAY before they’re already wondering how the hell they’ll survive without each other. They start planning their long distance relationship, working out Skype calls and visits… After ONE DAY! Even Penny’s friend catches onto this:
“Then how can you be in love with this guy if you only just met him?”
It was predictable
I don’t always mind a predictable story, but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, it didn’t. It was SO OBVIOUS what the ending was going to be, and yet Penny didn’t see it. That’s what frustrated me. The MC was completely blindsided, but I saw it coming a million miles away. I hate being so out of sync with a character.
Penny didn’t learn the lesson I thought she would
This book is about a lot of things, including:
- Wishing everyone would just be “real” around each other. Don’t pretend. Don’t be fake. Don’t judge.
- Finding a place where you can be “real” without judgement (blogging).
- Then, as the book develops, it’s about Penny finding confidence in herself and facing her fears. It’s about her finally being able to be herself.
Here’s the thing. Penny starts Girl Online 100% anonymous. It’s anonymous so that she doesn’t have to be afraid to be herself. She can be completely honest without people she ACTUALLY knows judging her. I get that. She’s afraid to be herself in “real life” so she does it online.
But then the book is all about her facing those fears and finding her confidence in real life. So in the end when View Spoiler » [her anonymity gets exposed and everyone knows that Penny is Girl Online, I thought she’d deal with it. But instead, she’s HORRIFIED and immediately shuts down her blog, saying, “I don’t have the anonymity of Girl Online to hide behind.” I mean, she says she’s gained confidence in real life, but has she really gained confidence if she’s still afraid to link her 100% honesty (online) to her real name? I don’t think so. « Hide Spoiler]
The writing was inconsistent
I feel like it kept flip flopping. Sometimes it would come off as amateurish (ALL THE EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!) and other times it would be alright. Some people suspect this book was ghost written*… I don’t know about that. I’m not going to make any assumptions, but I can see why people would think that. Or at least why they’d suspect it was REALLY heavily edited. The writing just wasn’t consistent. The worst bit by far was the beginning. It’s almost like the author wrote the book and grew/improved as a writer the more she wrote (as the book got to the end) but then never went back and revised the beginning to match her new skills.
* Update: It was pretty much confirmed that it was ghost written.
I don’t know…
All that being said…
This book was flawed. It was imperfect, childish, and predictable. As I said before, maybe part of this is all my fault. I’m not the target audience and I expected this book to be something it didn’t turn out to be at all. I wanted a mature MC but I got a pretty immature one instead. That might be perfectly fine for a 12-16 year old audience, but it wasn’t fine for me. And maybe that’s on ME and not on the author.
But anyway, all that being said, I didn’t hate this book. The beginning did feel very amateurish with the over usage of exclamation marks, but the book got a bit better as it went on. Even though it was full of predictable endings and insta-love, part of me kind of enjoyed it. It was a cute, fluffy read. It’s nothing ground-breaking, nothing intense, nothing soul-shattering, but it was kind of fun and fluffy. Sometimes that’s all you need.