Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Another Girl by Allison Burnett // Online Friendships

When Lauren from the blog Shooting Stars Mag first emailed me about Another Girl by Allison Burnett, and online friendships, I was intrigued, and thought it would be an interesting topic to explore.  I had never heard of Another Girl, or the book written before it, Undiscovered Gyrl, but the premise sounded interesting enough that I was willing to check it out.

The blurb for Undiscovered Gyrl, from Goodreads:  Only on the internet can you have so many friends and be so lonely.
Beautiful, wild, funny, and lost, Katie Kampenfelt is taking a year off before college to find her passion. Ambitious in her own way, Katie intends to do more than just smoke weed with her boyfriend, Rory, and work at the bookstore. She plans to seduce Dan, a thirty-two-year-old film professor. Katie chronicles her adventures in an anonymous blog, telling strangers her innermost desires, shames, and thrills. But when Dan stops taking her calls, when her alcoholic father suffers a terrible fall, and when she finds herself drawn into a dangerous new relationship, Katie's fearless narrative begins to crack, and dark pieces of her past emerge.

Another Girl is the sequel to Undiscovered Gyrl, though it isn't a full novel.  It's a short novella, and I jumped right into it this evening without reading the first book or watching the movie based on it, called Ask Me Anything, which is on Netflix.  I meant to at least watch the movie first, but after reading the first page of the novella, I was hooked, and read right through to the end.  It's a very quick read (I read it in about 45 minutes), but it was definitely captivating.  Though I think it would have been better to read Undiscovered Gyrl first, I believe the novella can stand on its own.  It's a quick look at the dangers of online relationships, and it really made me think.

The topic of online friendships is something I'm familiar with, as I've become friends with several people I've met online.  I first started blogging about 13 years ago on Livejournal, and I became friends with a few people there.  I know a lot of people don't consider online friendships to be real friendships, but I don't see why they can't be just as special, in their own way.  With a friends-only (private) Livejournal, I was able to geek out, vent, and talk about inane, everyday subjects, as well as discuss my daily life.  And this group of people who had "friended" my LJ commented.  They got it.  They blogged about similar things.  We chatted, we discussed TV shows and movies, and we left comments to cheer up one another when we were down.  After a while, they simply became friends.  Sure, we never talked on the phone or met in person, but we read about each other's days, our successess, our disappointments, and bonded over a shared love of geeky things.  While human contact and interaction is important, online friendships can be just as valid.  None of us are quite as active on LJ as we used to be, but I still keep up with several of them through Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

I have actually met one of my LJ friends in "real life" - a couple of times, as a matter of fact.  We went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter together a couple of years ago, and that is still one of the best days of my life.  Sadly, we live in different states, so meeting up on a regular basis isn't feasible, but we do keep in touch.  We have a standing appointment to watch each new episode of Doctor Who and Sherlock at the same time so we can chat about it while we watch, which makes watching the shows twice as fun!  I don't even consider her an "online" friend anymore; I consider her one of my best friends.

On the other side of that, however, the internet can be a dangerous place, and I don't recommend meeting up with people you meet online, which brings me back to Another Girl.  While you can feel like you really know a person after reading their blog for years, there is still a barrier between you and them.  They're only sharing what they want you to know, and they could be making it up entirely.  There could be absolutely no truth in what they say, but there's no way for you to prove it.

In Another Girl, Elle emails Katie, who is the main character of Undiscovered Gyrl, because apparently Katie disappeared completely from her blog at the end of Undiscovered Gyrl, and her followers either believed she was dead, or that she didn't exist at all.  Some people thought the male author of the book was impersonating Katie, and that the whole thing was fiction.  Elle wasn't sure, but she wanted some closure to the book, so she emailed "Katie."  As it turned out, Katie replied, and claimed that her real name was Amy, and that she "disappeared" because she didn't like the person Katie had become.  Elle was cautious at first, but gradually let down her guard, and she and Katie/Amy became friends.  Elle thought Katie/Amy was a bit pushy at times about meeting in person, and also thought Katie/Amy said things that made her feel uncomfortable, but she pushed those thoughts aside.  Eventually, Katie/Amy convinced Elle to visit her while her husband and daughter were out of town.  While Elle was initially hesitant, she finally agreed to meet Katie at a restaurant located next to a motel, where she would be staying for the duration of the visit.  After she arrives, she emails Katie asking where she is, as the only other people in the restaurant are the waitress, and a "lonely-looking guy" getting up the courage to talk to her.  A few minutes later, she emails Katie again to say that he left, and asks, yet again, when she's going to arrive.  She never hears back from Katie, so she emails her to say she's going to her motel room as she has had too much to drink and can't drive home.  There are no more emails from Elle to Katie.  But there are emails from another girl to Katie, where Katie claims that she's never before replied to someone about the book/blog.  It's pretty clear what happened, even though it's not spelled out.

At only 138 pages, this is a quick read, but it's enough time to be drawn into the mystery.  It definitely made me think.  It was creepy, mainly because this sort of thing can, and does, happen on a daily basis.  So, in conclusion, enjoy your online friends, but be wary, especially if you feel they're pressuring you to meet in person.  Trust your instincts, and stay safe!

Undiscovered Gyrl: Goodreads | Amazon

Another Girl: Amazon | Goodreads -- Another Girl is free to borrow, if you're a member of Kindle Unlimited!

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