Wednesday, 6 April 2016

'Girl Online: On Tour' (Girl Online #2) by Zoe Sugg

*This review will contain spoilers!* 

It's been five months since I read the first book in the series, 'Girl Online', and it's only taken me this long to read the sequel because I've been waiting all this time to borrow it from the library - the reservation list on this thing was HUGE! I'd assumed the popularity would die down with the second novel, but it's still receiving a crazy amount of attention.
If you haven't read 'Girl Online', it's the story of a girl called Penny and the life-changing trip to New York where she meets the boy of her dreams, Noah Flynn. The only problem is, Noah's a world famous Youtube sensation, and despite the fact that Penny's a popular blogger (writing under the pseudonym Girl Online) she hasn't heard of him. Because of the distance between them - him in New York, her in Brighton - and the pressure of the attention from his career, she worries about whether the relationship will last and calls it off, but Noah is determined to make it work.
Noah is so determined that in this second installation he takes Penny on tour with him around Europe. He has a huge gig as the opening act for popular boyband The Sketch (who, surprisingly, Penny has heard of!) and he wants to experience his first tour with her by his side. Penny's parents aren't too sure, because she suffers with anxiety and panic attacks and the extended time away from home might be triggering, but Noah's manager convinces them that everything will be hunky dory, so away they go into the sunset.
But, of course, it wouldn't be a story if there weren't dramatic twists and turns. First of all, Penny loses her phone, and whoever finds it turns into a crazed stalker sending her anonymous and threatening messages. Then Noah's drummer and best friend, Blake, tells Penny she's holding Noah back by keeping him in a relationship. The tour isn't the happy escape Penny thought it would be, and when Noah has no time for her it looks like our power couple will be no more...
I actually enjoyed 'Girl Online: On Tour' more than I thought I would. If Zoe Sugg's writing wasn't overly simplistic and childlike, it would have been a solid four star read for me.
One of my qualms with the first book was that it definitely felt like it should have been marketed as children's fiction rather than teenage, and that's still my prevailing feeling about this second installment - other than the fact that Noah drinks and Blake tries to force himself on Penny (just a kiss, but it could still shock and scare a younger reader) there is nothing that makes this stand out as a teenage book. Because of the way Zoe writes she feels like a children's storyteller, if she writes any more books it would be interesting if she went down that route instead.
The book was repetitive: travelling, hotel room, concert, Noah ditches Penny, travelling, hotel room etc. etc. etc, but I guess that's representative of the touring lifestyle - it's difficult to make it sound any more exciting than just traipsing from one location to another. Because Noah kept ditching Penny, we didn't actually get to explore most of the countries that the gang found themselves in - we just had a cursory glance out of the window, then a tiny bit of exploration in Rome and Paris. It didn't really bring the places to life, and all of the descriptions were based in fact not experience - it makes me wonder if Zoe has ever traveled to these places and seen them for herself.
Penny's blogs were still a nice change of pace to the narrative, breaking up the longer sections into brief and conversational pieces, but the sign off of 'Girl Offline... never going online xxx' absolutely did my head in. How much more cringeworthy can you get?! I understood that it was a parallel to the sign off in the first book, 'Girl Online... going offline', but it makes no sense - even if you're just publishing a blog privately, you're still publishing it online. It would have made more sense if it was 'Girl Offline... never going public xxx' but no, of course not.
I'm glad that there wasn't a stereotypical happily ever after: yes, Noah and Penny defeat the bad guy stalker and solve that problem, but because of the issues in their relationship they're still on the rocks. They both decide they want to be together, but feel as though they need to put themselves first - Noah with his music career, Penny with her A-levels - and I feel as though it's one of the most genuine representations of a teenage relationship that I've ever encountered, which shocked me to no end!
Often there can't be a happily ever after, and people can't get everything that they want, so it was nice (if bittersweet) that they had to make such a tough call. I hated the fact that Noah turned into such a raging ass, but that's also realistic - fame will go to your head, especially if you're only 18! - even if it did seem out of character from what we'd read in the first novel. I was glad that Penny didn't unquestioningly take him back, because it will empower young female readers: just because a guy is extremely hot and you are in love with him, it doesn't give him the right to take advantage of you and treat you badly.
The ending is ambiguous, so they easily could end up together eventually, but I hope there isn't a third installment - it's a powerful way to end it, and I feel as though most fans will be satisfied with the ending and the fact that things aren't too clear cut. I'd been expecting a very stereotypical read with an unquestioningly happy ending, so I'm happy Zoe chose to deal with relationships in a grown-up and mature way.
If you hated 'Girl Online', don't read this one - it's similar enough that you'll be tearing your hair out, particularly if you disliked Zoe's writing style. However, if you felt apathetic or neutral towards it, it might be worth giving this one a shot.

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