Hazel Ravu on Cookie
When thinking about the long-term ramifications derived from overreading Jacqueline Wilson novels during my adolescence, I automatically think of Cookie as the book which left the most scars. Yes, the tale does encompass the seriousness of domestic abuse, with the main character and her mother as victims of their father and husband’s aggression. This perhaps can be agreed as a challenging topic for young readers; Jacqueline Wilson did well to approach difficult but relatable situations in her writing and personally, I think she is brilliant for that.
The main reason, however, that this book has always stayed with me is to do with a more minor character within the novel. The chosen bully for this story is named Skye. Skye’s long blonde hair, ‘big blue eyes’ and small physique was the complete opposite to my dark skin, short and coarse hair, and chubby self. She is constantly described in the book as beyond beautiful. Beauty, the main character, longed for her looks. Which meant so did I. She was even praised plentifully by Beauty’s father which retrospectively is quite strange. I did not know it then, but young, black, impressionable me was very much conditioned through characters such as Skye to think that there is a very specific monopoly on beauty. Why would you not? When you are reading a book, which is indirectly telling you what is attractive and what IS… is not you.
Megan Evans on My Sister Jodie
My Sister Jodie was a book that I read FAR too young, as it really dug deep into my heart as I poured over the last pages, pleading that this is not how it ends for siblings. The odd pairing of a mischievous older sister, compared with a timid shy younger one, resembled loosely to the relationship I had with my older sister, as she seemed to do whatever she liked and was extremely outspoken in comparison to myself. A once confident young girl embarking on a new adventure in a boarding school, it is odd to see the story change as Jodie ends up isolated, in comparison to her sister who fits in well with the school. It really shows a discriminatory perspective on being different, and it is only the ending where a Halloween joke goes wrong.
I felt so sad to see a children’s book explore the grieving nature of a sibling, one I wish I would never have to experience. At the tender age of 10, reading this was such a shell shock. I never thought a Jacqueline Wilson book would end that morbid! Whilst all her books cover a whole abundance of topics ranging from bullying to family issues, My Sister Jodie encompassed a world of boarding school which made me want to go to one, and sibling rivalry like no other. Showing the ups and downs of relationships in such a stark way, enabled me to accept that life is never always so bright, but maybe it was a little too early to have been taught this…
Katie Waits on Vicky Angel
The first time that I read a Jacqueline Wilson book was when I was nine years old. I had spotted it on a bookshelf in my Year 5 classroom, and I remember feeling intrigued. That book was Vicky Angel and it has haunted me ever since.
Vicky Angel is told from the point of view of a schoolgirl called Jade whose best friend, Vicky, dies in a car accident. After Vicky’s emotional death, Jade continues to be plagued by her friend who returns as a mischievous ghost, invisible to everyone else. Ghost Vicky exploits this fact and unnervingly manipulates Jade and influences her strange behaviour, from beyond the grave.
At that point in time, I hadn’t yet experienced grief. It was shocking to read about. Vicky Angel highlights the unpredictability of life, and the thought of losing someone I loved became much more terrifying to my younger self. I also found myself conflicted. I didn’t always like Vicky, but I felt awful and disrespectful for feeling that way because, despite her being fictional, she was dead.
Although it’s been years since I read Vicky Angel, I think it’s safe to say that it definitely made me more than a little bit paranoid. Most people who have walked somewhere with me will probably know that I get rather nervous when crossing the road.
Over the years, I’ve read many Jacqueline Wilson books, all wonderful and disturbing in their own ways, but Vicky Angel will always stick with me as the first.
Maya Deane on The Illustrated Mum
So, Jacqueline Wilson novels usually tend to contain some sort of tragic occurrences for her poor unsuspecting protagonists (I would know, back when I was 12 my single personality trait was making sure I read everything that woman published), but one book that isn’t talked about nearly enough is The Illustrated Mum.
After reading it again recently for a Children’s Literature module I realised just how much had gone over my head when I had read the book for the first time when I was younger. Firstly, the main character, Dolphin, is literally eight years old. Eight! And whilst her mum, Marigold, is trying her absolute hardest to be a good mum to her two daughters, the novel centres around Marigold’s unpredictable nature, and her (heavily implied but never confirmed) battle with undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
Throughout the book Marigold is shown to disappear for days at a time, leaving Dolphin’s twelve-year-old sister, Star, in charge. Rereading the book was quite honestly heart breaking due to Dolphin’s naivety and her fierce loyalty to her mum, despite Marigold’s faults. Its revealed that Marigold was in care when she was younger, and had a pretty terrible time, leading to the two girls spending the entire novel terrified that someone will find out about Marigold’s neglect and report them to social services. The most shocking scene, however, is later in the novel where Dolphin finds Marigold standing silently in the bathroom, covered in white paint following a complete psychotic break. Dark Stuff, would defo recommend a reread for any ex-Jaqueline fans.
Georgia Glenn on Girls Under Pressure
Jacqueline Wilson has given us some classics growing up. Tracy Beaker, Sleepovers and Double Act to name a few. However, what she’s also done is scar us for life with her adult themes and scary descriptions. One book in particular, Girls Under Pressure, shows how a 13-year-old girl (basically a child) obsesses over her weight and her looks purely because she does not get picked for a modelling job whilst her friends do. These friends are therefore deemed ‘beautiful’ by society.
As an 11 year old reading this book, it is very easy to get sucked into a world of looks, standards and competitiveness over how pretty you are when really you should be focusing on anything but looks, like having fun or doing well at school. Although ultimately the book does end on a slightly happier note (Ellie starts to love herself more and care less about society), the problems are already rooted both in the book and the minds of young readers; to get a job (albeit it’s a modelling job) you have to be pretty. Or skinny. Or tall. No one person in society is perfect so why are children being held to the same standard? For a young adult’s book, discussing these themes of beauty and weight too early can have a detrimental effect on teenagers, causing them to obsess over how they look well into their adult life and perhaps even further.