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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Girl Online is a sweet, upbeat romance by U.K. beauty and fashion vlogger Zoella (Zoe Sugg). The dedication and the bio on the back flap may raise curiosity about her YouTube channel. Girl Online is the fictional blog by heroine Penny Porter, who writes about her experiences and feelings anonymously because she feels she can be more honest and open that way. The pitfalls of posting online don't come out until late in the story: Penny's blog followers are overwhelmingly positive and supportive; she experiences no trolling until her identity is revealed and rumors circulate about her love life. Penny's sugary, Pollyanna outlook, the book's mild sexual content (only a few kisses), and some rare strong language ("bitch," "crap," "WTF") make it best for tweens dreaming of their first romance. Penny's family, best friend Elliot, and love interest in New York, Noah, are practically perfect in every way.
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What's the story?
Penny Porter, a 15-year-old high schooler in Brighton, England, anonymously writes the popular GIRL ONLINE blog. It's a place where she can be honest and cope with life's ups and downs thanks to the blog's supportive followers. Her mother's work provides the opportunity to travel to New York City for Christmas, and Penny is just as happy to get away from the embarrassing video of her falling onstage that's just gone viral. In New York she meets the dreamy Noah, and the two start to fall for each other. But Penny will have to go back home in a few days. What will happen when Penny gets back to reality? And can she and Noah hold on to what they have?
Is it any good?
This super-bubbly and saccharine-sweet romance will have tweens sighing and swooning in anticipation of their first love. Older teens and young adults will have a harder time digesting the highly idealized people and situations that surround the predictable plot.
All the upbeat frivolity doesn't leave room for serious discussion about the realities of online safety or the wisdom of posting anonymously. It's a fun, light escape for young romance fans and can be an opening for discussion about these issues with tweens who are just learning about life, both online and off.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about facing your fears. What helps you get through things when you're afraid? What would your alter ego be called, and why?
Do you agree with Penny that keeping a diary is pointless and dull? Are there things you might write to yourself that you wouldn't want others to see? Is posting anonymously a good solution for wanting to be read but also wanting to be honest?
Which of Penny's feelings do you most relate to? Are there any that seem unrealistic to you?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.