Book Review: Girl Online by Zoe Sugg AKA Zoella

Title: Girl OnlineGirl Online By Zoe Sugg

Author: Zoe Sugg aka Zoella

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Genre(s): Chick-Lit, YA

We now live in a world where everything is based online (ironic considering where I’m posting this?). This rapid expansion of technology and the ominous place we now refer to as the “internet”, means that our generation and the generations to come will live in a world where their whole lives are documented digitally rather than print. Which is why it is so refreshing to see the process reversed in Youtuber, Zoe Sugg’s debut novel, Girl Online

As some of you may know, Zoe, or more famously known as bubbly Zoella, has since been the subject of much controversy; whilst Zoe had claimed to have written the novel, it has since been revealed that she in fact used a ghost writer. Whilst ghost writing is far from uncommon, it comes as shock as to Zoella’s established fan-base who were buying into a novel because of who they thought wrote it, not just because their name is slapped on the front cover. This information certainly didn’t stop Girl Online from breaking the record for the highest first week sales for a debut author since records began.

Despite all of this, I bought the book (albeit before I found out Zoe only created the characters and didn’t actually do much of the writing). And to be quite honest, I found this novel thoroughly entertaining. So what exactly is it about? Girl Online centres around clumsy and accident prone, Penny who finds solace in her anonymous blogs where she updates her readers on her anxiety and disastrous teenage life. After a humiliating event which triggers her anxiety, Penny jets off to New York with her parents and best friend in order to escape from her so-called “friends”. There, she meets Noah, who helps her through her situation yet he too seems to hiding something, making Penny question her relationship with him.

In all honesty, this novel is riddled with all sorts of clichés that I have mentioned I DESPISE in the past. For instance, the clumsy, ditzy protagonist who we feel for or the gorgeous (yet completely unrealistic) love interest.  What actually sets this novel apart from any other in its genre is the inclusion of Penny’s anxiety and panic attacks. As someone who has suffered from panic attacks in the past (and probably will do in the future), I found it thoroughly interesting to see it portrayed in such an honest light and its bound to help plenty of insecure girls and boys out there! My only other complaint would have to be that the ending of the novel was completely rushed. Any development of the story for secondary characters was swept under the rug which was a real shame.

This novel is completely light, lovely and a great escapism! With another novel on the way later this year, it will be interesting to see if Zoe has more of an input or continues to use a ghost writer.

The Bug’s Verdict

8/10 – Highly Recommended

Ps. Just in case you’re interested, here are some interesting articles regarding the Zoe Sugg ghost writing debate!

Defending Zoella: 10 reasons not to hate on Zoe Sugg – (The Guardian)

A teenage boy writes: why I’m let down by Zoella  (The Guardian)

Why so many are angry with YouTube star Zoe Sugg for using a ghostwriter (Washington Post)

 

Book Review: Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern

Title: Where Rainbows End (Kindle Edition) Where Rainbows End

Author: Cecelia Ahern

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Genre: Romance, Chick-Lit, Comedy

Cecelia Ahern known for her sickly and extremely unrealistic novels has churned out yet another chick-lit, this time in epistolary form i.e written exclusively in letters, texts and emails.

The novel centres on two protagonists, Rosie and Alex who have been the best of friends pretty much since they were born. The narrative follows their story from childhood to growing into teenagers and later adults as they explore different relationships and careers, all the while, still attempting to maintain their own friendship through the ups and downs life throws at them.

The characters of Alex and Rosie are fairly well-rounded characters, particularly Rosie, whose character development is more evident than her male counterpart. The most interesting aspect is, of course, the nature of the relationship between the two. Ultimately, this novel appears to be Ahern’s answer to the question that has baffled humanity for centuries; can a relationship between a male and female ever be purely platonic?

Ahern’s answer is a complex one as demonstrated through the obstacles faced by the main characters. However, what is most charming about this book, is the way in which she addresses this question through a second set of characters, another generation. Whilst I want this to remain a spoiler free review, I will say the way in which she constructs her answer is delightful.

All in all, this novel is a charming one, if not a little simplistic. If you’re looking for a light read that will offer laughs, tears and smiles, definitely purchase this from your nearest store (or kindle) today!

The Bug’s Verdict: 7/10

Book Review: Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

Queen of BabbleTitle: Queen of Babble (Kindle Edition)

Author: Meg Cabot

Series/Standalone: Series Book #1 of 3

Genre: Adult, Romance, Chick-Lit, Comedy

Everyone has that one guilty pleasure and I am no exception as I occasionally dust off a good old Meg Cabot novel from my book shelf. Cabot, queen of teen chick lit, is known for her approachable and very modern writing style as she often uses colloquial, modern language. Usually, her characters are incredibly relatable and endearing. I’m not ashamed to say that favourites have included the Mediator and Princesses Diaries series. Now that I’m 21 however, I feel I’m a little too, ahem, mature (for lack of a better term) to be reading these such books. However, I decided to turn to some of Cabot’s more “Adult” fiction, Queen of Babble.  And boy was I disappointed.

Let’s rewind slightly first; Lizzie Nichols is the Queen of chatter and babble; somehow she always manages to put her foot in it. When the opportunity for Lizzie to spend a romantic European, summer with her long-distant boyfriend arises, she just can’t wait. But maybe her idealistic summer may not turn out how she expected thanks to her big mouth.

One of the major flaws of Queen of Babble is that it is EXACTLY THE SAME AS EVERY OTHER MEG CABOT NOVEL! As in the main character, had the exact same characteristics as Mia in the Princess’s Diaries or Suze in the Mediator Series. Secondly, the plot is that predictable that it is tiresome.

Cabot appears to believe that any female character who is clumsy and has the tendency to put her foot in her mouth or make some huge embarrassing mistake is endearing. While at times this is completely relatable for young girls like myself, after a while, it’s disappointing that this is the only variety of female character Cabot is able to “create”. Secondly, the plot is completely predictable and I would have thought that with this being an adult book and not a teenage one, Cabot would have perhaps developed from the typical structure she had established for herself , at least finding some way of adding variety. Another element that I have found incredibly frustrating about Cabot’s writing is the way in which she stereotypes any foreign or non-American character as antagonistic.

Whilst I’m pretty frustrated over these elements to the novel,  one aspect I did enjoy was  Cabot’s ability to portray Lizzie’s career limbo, something I completely related  and I know  a lot of other girls in a similar position would find to be unique to such a novel.

Whilst I’ve pretty much torn this book apart, I’m starting to believe its “me not you” situation. Perhaps it isn’t Cabot’s fault she’s stuck to the status quo but my own. Maybe, instead of reading the same type of chick-lit novels over and over again, I should spice up my “to be read” list. So as of now, I will attempt to read as many books as possible out of my own comfort zone. However, I’ll always know, that should I ever return, Meg Cabot and her multitude of teen and chick-lit books will be waiting for me snuggly on my bookshelf accompanied with a hot chocolate and a duvet.

The Bug’s Verdict: 6/10

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Title: The Fault In Our Stars

Author: John GreenThe Fault In Our Stars Review

Series/ Standalone?: Standalone

Genre: Realist, YA, Romance

I thought I would take a break from all of the dystopia/sci-fi/fantasy I was reading and go for something a little more different. This book has been on my TBR list for so long and I am so glad that I took a risk to read it. It has won so many awards and was number one on the New York Times list, an achievement definitely well deserved.

The story is basically narrated by Hazel, a terminally ill cancer patient who meets fellow cancer patient Augustus or Gus as he is later known. Together, they go on a beautiful road of philosophical and self-discovery. Whilst this concept sounds boring, completely unoriginal and a plot out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, it is anything but that.

What really makes this novel is Green’s incredible writing, He manages to be simultaneously humorous, smart, philosophical and thought- provoking, definitely not an easy feat when he tackles such a difficult topic. The approach to cancer and death using a combination of humour and sorrow results in a beautiful, complex story.

Green’ elaborate ideas of life, existence and his concept of “the side effect” is embodied by the complexity of the two protagonists who are both easy to empathise with. Hazel struggles to form and maintain a variety of relationships because of her illness and the idea of her impending death.  In contrast, Gus who appears to be so sure and confident actually ends up being the most vulnerable, making the story even more tragic. How can you not fall slightly in love with Gus? I found him to be a much more intriguing character than Hazel as he broods over clever metaphors, and to some extent, he is one himself.

A lot of people have been saying “it’s not a cancer story”, well in all honesty, it kind of is. It’s the fact that it’s not just a cancer story, it’s so much more than that. On one level, the novel is an exploration of what life is and the way death affects life and vice versa. This is seen even further with the fictional book “An Imperial Affliction” within The Fault In Our Stars “written” by the character Peter Van Outen, the book that Hazel and Gus connect over. “An Imperial Affliction” ends mid-sentence, which perfectly reflects the death of not only the story, but Peter’s own life and how it appears that it ends although he is not the one who has technically died and he has been affected by a cancer case. Wouldn’t it be amazing if John Green did a Jo Rowling and actually wrote the book within the book?!

I honestly don’t think my review can do this book justice, from its writing, narrative, plot, characters and how much it moved me. This is a read that has to be experienced first-hand so definitely go read it!

My Rating: 9/10

Book Review:Divergent

Title: Divergent

Picture1

Author: Veronica Roth

Series or Standalone: 1/3 of “The Divergent Trilogy”

Genre(s): Dystopia, YA, Action, Romance

Since last year, everyone has been raving on and on about a book that I initially thought was called “Detergent”. I was mistaken and the title of the novel is in fact Divergent. As soon as I found out that there was going to be a movie adaptation starring Kate Winslet, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and finally got around to reading Divergent. The novel is set in near future Chicago, where society is separated into different “factions” depending on the personality traits of its inhabitants. There are five different factions; Abnegation (the selfless) Eruidite (the intelligent), Dauntless (the brave), Amnity (the peaceful) and Candor (the honest).  Once they turn sixteen, the teenagers of the dystopian society must choose whether to stay in the faction they were born and raised in, or, choose a different faction and ultimately betray their family and the society in a world where the idea of “faction over blood” is a serious motto. Once they have chosen their faction, the teens must undergo a series of initiation tests to pass into their new home. However, failure to pass means one becomes factionless, the bottom of the social ladder and forever quarantined from society. Our protagonist, Tris, must choose her faction, however we find out that Tris does not just have the qualities of one faction, but a number of them, thus making her divergent and a danger to the repressed and organised society.

I’m slightly torn on my opinion of this novel and I did enjoy it but, to an extent. Let me start off by saying that I liked the fact that Tris is a strong female character and that her weaknesses are sometimes her strengths and vice versa. Another thing I admired about the protagonist is that she is not willing to compromise who she is, but rather develop and this is a  great, strong message that Roth sends out to the numerous teenage girls (and boys) reading this novel. Props to Roth on Tris’ character development as she develops from a meek little girl, into a sturdy young woman who is willing to confront her fears and take control.

Issues of the novel reached much darker places than I had anticipated and some issues that are touched upon include rape and poverty and I felt this was quite daring on Roth’s part as the novel is aimed at a younger audience. The pace of the plot was fairly slow for the first 100 pages but then definitely picked which kept me compelled to continue reading. However, I found the setting rather than the plot more exciting and would love to read more about the background of how Chicago transformed into these factions which is perhaps developed further in the sequels.

I’ve talked briefly about what I enjoyed, now onto what I didn’t love so much about the book. The thing that frustrated me the most was the predictability of the plot. Maybe because I’ve read that much YA, I’m just attuned to it. I knew instantly which faction Tris was going to choose, who her brother, Caleb was going to choose and I even had inkling to Tris’ love interest, Four’s identity and this predictability in the plot meant that I couldn’t enjoy the novel as much as I possibly could have done. Another slightly frustrating plot was the romance. Will I ever get to read a YA without an underdeveloped and cringe-worthy romance? I’m not necessarily criticizing Four or the romance, just the way in which they were both portrayed. They were both predictable and terribly clichéd.

With a similar setting, themes and strong female protagonist, it is inevitable that The Hunger Games comparisons begin. I know I’ve just been praising Tris as a great example of a strong female character but she has nothing on my girl Katniss, who manages to be bad-ass and vulnerable simultaneously. Tris doesn’t even meet her standards. Additionally, I feel Collins manages to convey the violence and poverty more effectively than Roth as she doesn’t shy away from the brutality of society whereas Roth sometimes avoids going into detail on the more controversial and realistic issues. It further lacked the emergency and immediacy that made Collins’ dystopia novel so compelling.

I did thoroughly enjoy Divergent (although it might have been because it’s the first thing I’ve read in months that is not university related). I found the characters driven and interesting. As a standalone, it would be amazing. However, it is hard not to compare it to success of The Hunger Games. Is this the next Hunger Games? Possibly but for me, it only just manages to touch the high bar that the Collins’ trilogy has set but I do believe this  may quench the thirst we feel for a new dystopia series in the absence of such YA series by the likes of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.

My verdict: 7/10

Lit-to-Flick: The Host (2013) Movie Review

“The Host”, a science fiction romance based on the novel of the same name, by the author of the Twilight series (commercially successful but critically panned), Stephenie Meyer. I enjoyed the novel to an extent, however, although the movie is … Continue reading