Sometimes I’ll read something and see a book or movie mentioned or used in comparison and I’ll think, “Oh, that sounds interesting” and order it and then completely forget why by the time it comes in. That happened recently with Zoe Sugg’s Girl Online, a book I ordered before Christmas.
I think I ordered it because I saw a blurb about how Sugg—a fashion and beauty vlogger—was the first British female author to outsell J.K. Rowling or something like that. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.
Girl Online follows Penny Porter, a teenage blogger from Brighton who ends up traveling with her family and best friend to New York City because her mother is organizing a Downton Abbey-themed wedding for a wealthy American couple. While she’s there, she meets Noah, a dreamy and mysterious boy (is there really any other kind?). The two fall madly in love—as teenagers are wont to do—and the romance causes Penny’s blog to go viral and costs her her online anonymity.
As I read it, I was reminded of those great first loves we feel when we’re teenagers—loves that are often as transient as they are transcendent and are all the more beautiful because of it. And that’s never a bad thing to think back on. It also seems like Sugg is trying to warn her impressionable teenage demographic about the dangers of sharing and oversharing aspects of their lives online. If the only thing a young adult—or anyone, really—gets out of reading this book is to think before you share, then that’s a pretty good takeaway. Less selfies, more self-restraint!
My fellow coworkers teased me about ordering it, saying that it didn’t seem like a book that I would read and I have to admit that it’s not the kind I would normally seek out; I’m clearly not Sugg’s intended audience. I couldn’t care less about fashion and beauty tips, nor about the ghostwriting “scandal” surrounding the book, which I only learned about while doing some very light research for this post. Nevertheless, I’m a firm believer in going outside your reading comfort zone (and now I can check off one of the reading challenges from Abbey’s post the other day). I’m also a firm believer that reading a crappy book is better than watching a crappy television show or movie. And I have the science to back it up!
No matter how awful a book is, reading is still something you actively do. Your brain has to create entire rooms, wardrobes and people. Sometimes it has to create alien worlds and things that literally no one has ever seen. On the other hand, when you’re watching television, you’re a passive participant. The creation is already done for you.
Girl Online didn’t reinvent the wheel; it’s riddled with clichés and it’s so saccharine that I should probably go to the dentist now that I’ve finished it, but I didn’t hate the time that I spent reading it. If you have a few listless hours, I see nothing wrong with filling them with a simple story.
Were you ever pleasantly surprised after reading a book outside your comfort zone? Sound off in the comments below!