Synopsis taken from Goodreads
As Penny starts the school year she’s ready to face the world – alone. Noah has gone off the radar after ending his world tour early and no one, including Penny, knows where he is. So when she accepts Megan’s invitation to visit her performing arts school it seems like an opportunity to make some new friends.
Helping everyone else seems to be the right remedy – Elliot needs her friendship more than ever, and she meets Posey, who she can really help with her stage fright. But is charming Scottish boy Callum the right kind of distraction? And can Penny truly move on when Noah’s shadow seems to haunt her round every corner?
My rating: 4 stars
I feel the need to explain my rating a bit because in the past, I have given the other installments 5 star ratings. I think my taking it down a star can be attributed to the time in my life that I read the novel and the overall quality of the book. I usually really enjoy the Girl Online series completely but this one just didn’t quite feel like 5 star quality to me.
This installment of Penny Porter’s story begins during the fall after Penny and Noah have split up and Noah has disappeared into a little artist’s retreat to refocus himself. Penny is understandably struggling to move on from her long term boyfriend and is trying her best to focus on her passion of photography.
I like Penny’s story because it shows us that mental illness is not something that has to define your entire life. Penny struggles with anxiety, but she does her best to make sure her anxiety doesn’t control her. She also has great friends, Amara and Kira, who are ready to help her get out of a situation that is making her anxious. Although I do not suffer from anxiety myself, I appreciate the message behind Zoe’s books and they also help me to understand anxiety better. I liked Amara and Kira a lot in the last book, but they were even nicer to Penny in this one, even admitting that they had googled how to help someone with a panic attack. I thought that was super sweet and is probably something I would do too if I knew a close friend of mine might have an anxiety attack while I’m with them.
Ugh. Megan is literally the worst person in the world in these books. She has proven time and time again that she is ruthless and cannot be trusted, yet Penny always chooses to take the high road and believe that Megan might have changed for the better. She’s basically the main antagonist of this series, always throwing curveballs at Penny and doing evil things to her own benefit. This time, she illegally recorded one of Leah Brown’s new songs before release and sold it to the media for a lump of cash. THEN she lied and blamed Posey for her crime just so that Megan could get the starring role in her school production and be the center of attention. She’s terrible, and I am so SO glad that she didn’t even get to be on stage at all after Penny revealed what she had done and the school’s headmaster overheard the conversation. I believe the phrase “she got her comeuppance” was used int he book, and I loved that because 1) she did get her comeuppance and 2) I love the word “comeuppance.” ha ha… comeuppance… I digress.
Callum was… interesting. Of course, he’s this dreamy beautiful guy on the surface that Penny has a lot in common with in terms of photography, but he never feels right for her. Penny doesn’t feel a “spark” with Callum like she did with Noah, and I really wonder if the “spark” is something people actually feel. If you could inform me of that from first hand (or second hand I guess if you’ve heard first-hand accounts) experience on whether or not that is true I would greatly appreciate it. This brief relationship in Penny’s life really hit home for me because I feel like I can relate to it right now. Penny is coming to terms with the fact that she doesn’t have to fall head over heels for guy just because he seems perfect for her. It’s okay to not feel like a relationship will work and it’s okay to let it end if that’s the case. Of course, Penny doesn’t really end it, she just ind of leaves him hanging with a “I need to figure things out” which was kinda mean because she knows it’s not going to happen.
I was super annoyed when Noah just came back at the wedding in Scotland all of the sudden. Penny was just getting over him and trying to feel something for someone else and then Noah swoops in like he does and is all “Here I am! Love me.” Then he shows up at Megan’s stupid Halloween party expecting to win Penny back and steps into another sticky situation with Penny and Callum. But in the end, he was hiding in Brighton the entire time since he left the tour after the last book. I kind of predicted this because Penny thought she had seen him a couple of times around town, but then pushed away her thoughts of him after she thought she had been proven wrong. But it was really him and that was just a tad predictable.
As a pretty avid viewer of Zoe and Alfie’s Youtube channels, there were a lot of little references to places in Brighton, England that I have heard about in their vlogs. I liked that Zoe included these little references because I knew that they were real places in Brighton and that she was writing about what she really knows and loves about where she lives. You can still enjoy the references even if you don’t watch their vlogs, since they’re pretty much just names of real places. But to be fair, 99% of Zoe’s readership probably consists of fans of her and Alfie.
This was probably a bit long and rambly, but I really do enjoy this series and hopefully that came across in this review. I hope you also enjoyed Girl Online Going Solo, and let me know what you thought in the comments below!