Girl Online: On Tour by Zoe Sugg is available for order
Girl Online on Tour certainly doesn’t read as much like a ghosted novel, though the reassuring hand of an editor is present throughout. The first book, written without any real energy or spark, was a standard teenage fantasy in which a British everygirl navigated paint-by-numbers teen drama, became a famous blogger and fell in love with a pop star. The sequel, still set firmly in teen-fantasyville, feels like a more grown-up book. Elements of Sugg’s own experiences, her chirpy way of speaking and her genuine interest in mental health (both Sugg and her lead character suffer from panic attacks) shine through with greater authenticity here, and it’s all the more endearing for that.
In book two we find Penny Porter, the 16-year-old blogger with a passion for photography, pining after her “rock star extraordinaire” boyfriend Noah Flynn, who’s away on tour. Soon Penny goes to join him on the European leg but – surprise, surprise – the touring lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as it’s cracked up to be.
To say the plot is painted in broad strokes is an understatement. Steamrollers come to mind. But as the novel goes on, the bubblegum schmaltz gives way to some enjoyable coming-of-age drama.
The moral messages are classic, wholesome stuff – follow your passions, be true to yourself – but there are specific themes that Sugg treats with real sensitivity, such as not knowing what to do when you leave school, and the earth-shattering experience of ending a relationship with your first love, which is explored with realistic depth and big-sister wisdom. There’s some tasty intrigue, too, after Penny starts receiving threatening anonymous messages.
Penny is into photography, and seems to see everything through a camera lens. Her confusion about the changing behaviour of her former best friend is described as “a real-life double exposure”, and when she sees her boyfriend, he stands out as clear and sharp to her against the background blur of the world. Sugg herself is a keen photographer, and her passion for the subject resonates through the book.
Clearly, more time, effort and sweat has gone into this sequel than ever went near the initial rush-released instalment, calculated to cash in on Sugg’s internet fame. Both books have Zoe Sugg’s name on the cover, but if this one is her true debut, she has every reason to be proud.
This review is written by Charlotte Runcie and has been published in Telegraph Books. The review is available here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/zoe-sugg-girl-online-on-tour-review/