Zoella’s first book follows our protagonist Penny, a shy, awkward girl who is trying her best to fit in. Based in Brighton – those who know the town will follow most of the places Penny and co go to eat – Zoella has clearly based much of the book on her own experiences. Penny is also a blogger, and from the very beginning of the book starts getting panic attacks, mirroring Zoella’s own difficulties with anxiety.
The initial dynamic between Penny and her so-called friends is from the beginning heavily contrasted with her far more positive relationship with her best friend Elliott. It really highlights how we can be blind to the impact people are having on us. Penny continues to hang out with these friends who are negatively affecting hr life, and the reader just wants to encourage her to keep away from them, to spend time with Elliott instead.
Just as things get really bad for Penny, by way of an embarrassing incident going viral online, a chance arises for Penny, Elliott, and her parents to spend some time in New York before Christmas. It all goes fabulously, and of course a love interest is introduced, the lovely-named but slightly-too-good-to-be-true Noah.
As Penny and Noah get all loved up, Elliott is increasingly left out. He then has to fly home alone for Christmas with his festivity-hating parents, whilst Penny unbelievably ends up spending Christmas Day at Noah’s (his grandmother did the catering for the wedding which Penny’s mum organised in New York). After a whirlwind romance, a heartbroken Penny ends up back at home, where things go from bad to worse.
Of course there is a happy ending. This is a story of massive highs and lows, and the reader does get the feeling that enough ‘bad’ moments have had to be thought up to balance out the positive times. All in all though, a book with a fabulous message, that however bad things seem, and however many trolls insult you online, you will turn it around with the help of those around you. Plus, it’s a really enjoyable, fun read!
[NB featured picture has me covered in whipped cream and confetti because my friend Jack in the photo there with me sent me this book as a Christmas gift along with this picture of us being trashed after Finals]