For the sex blogging community, and especially, I imagine, the British sex blogging community, Girl on the Net is the thing we have in common: the blog we all read, the blogger many of us aspire to write like. It’s weird to me that the world beyond blogging is less familiar with her – when my RL friends claim not to have heard of her, I’m surprised, disappointed even – because her blog is a way in to conversations about sex, albeit a seriously filthy one.
How a bad girl fell in love is her second book, but the first in paperback, which delights the print-geek in me. My favourite sex blogger just became giftable! And that’s important, because, all the good stuff I have to say about this book aside, what I think will be really interesting is how it’s received in the market more widely.
The Amazon blurb reads as follows:
From the UK’s smartest and most controversial sex blogger comes a unique story of ordinary love and incredible sex – and what happened when they came together. This is Girl on the Net’s true story – of falling in love and falling apart. From the honeymoon days of sex whenever and wherever, to the everyday issues that come with a solid relationship. This is more than a memoir, this is a must-read for all of us who have ever wondered…can great sex and real love ever go hand in hand?
I liked it a lot, but I wasn’t sure, when I started it, what made it different from the blog. One of the things I loved about Girl on the Net’s earlier blog posts was that they were all titled ‘On X…,’ a trope that many of us have since borrowed, because it works, and the equivalent trick in How a bad girl fell in love is to name the chapters with genuine magazine article titles and to introduce them with a snippet of conversation between Sarah, the narrator, and the lovely Mark, who I fell a bit in love with pretty damn quick. For example, Chapter 8 is called ‘Work-Love Balance: 8 Tips on Juggling a Career & Couplehood,’ and it starts:
Me: Thing is, it’s easier to ask for a fuck than to tell someone great that you love them.
Him: For you. Easier for YOU.
It’s clever, and the intro snippets are all funny and cute, to the extent that I kept sticking the book under friends’ noses and going ‘Ohh, this one’s *lovely*’ but I did worry for a while that it read more like a series of articles or blog posts compiled than a novel with a distinct plot arc. For some people, of course, that would be perfect, because they like to dip in and out of stuff, and it certainly makes it easier to do that, but me? I want arc.
On Wednesday evening though, with 75 pages to go, I meant to go home and eat before heading out again later. I was pushed for time and the book was burning a hole in my handbag. In the end, I snuck off to Carluccio’s and over sausage pasta, wine and tiramisu, I devoured what was left of it. It pulled me in so deftly, I didn’t even realise it was happening.
This is a book that’s strong on hot sex …
When Mark pushed his cock inside me I let out what felt like a sigh of relief. All the times I’d said no, and all moments when I’d sobbed myself to sleep feeling dry and useless and pathetic: they all came out in that breath.
Then he smacked me.
… on mental health …
I’m not weak. I’m fighty. I’ll shout and get angry about things all the time … Buggered if I’m going to cry just because my boyfriend is trying to push me to explain why I cried in a restaurant, and why all my friends have started tiptoeing around me, as if just one wrong word will turn me to dust.
… and on love and affection …
The miracle came the next day, when his key clicked in the lock and he came running through the hallway shouting my name.
‘Ugh,’ he grunted, as he pulled me into a hug. ‘It’s been a long day. I fucking missed you.’
The Evening Standard reviewed it a while back, and I think they missed the point. Is it clickbait in print form? Maybe. The title suggests so, at least, and perhaps the cover, too. But this…?
So what do women want? To fuck “for a variety of reasons: true love, sheer curiosity, politeness, money, boredom” or “because we’re horny and we just quite feel like it”? Or to find Mr Right? To be honest, I’m not sure GOTN knows. She swings erratically in her search for that special experience, from pub toilet cubicles to down the aisle.
The point, for me, is that Girl on the Net *doesn’t* know, and that’s the joy of this book. Personally, I’m sick of heroines who are nice, and uncomplicated – scatty, but essentially good – who know what they want, and always get it in the end. Real women *do* ‘swing erratically,’ though there’s not currently much on the shelves that acknowledges that.
Girl on the Net does. It’s what makes this really worth reading. I think the blogging community will love it. I hope the rest of the world will too. And in six months, I’ll be checkIng the Amazon reviews to see if they did, because the verdict will tell us a lot – about where we are with regard to talking about sex, feminism, MH issues and our bodies – and how far we still have to go.
I received an advance copy of How a bad girl fell in love in exchange for a fair review. I also have a competition, where you can win a signed copy.