Jacqueline Wilson is an author I struggle with as an adult reader, and as a parent. Both my daughters (8 & 12) enjoy her work immensely, and she is one of the most popular children’s authors in the UK. Her books are frequently cited as the most borrowed from libraries, and several of them made the top 100 when the BBC ran their Big Read competition a few years ago.
I still don’t like them.
As the Story Teller in Residence at my children’s primary school, I am there to try to encourage children to enjoy reading for pleasure, and I have found that Wilson’s appeal is legion amongst girls of all ages at the school. I decided that if I am going to recommend books I cannot, hand on heart, recommend something unless I have read it myself. Hence my foray into reading Vicky Angel.
Wilson writes for children across the board, from infants to those in their teens. This book has some fairly adult themes, and although my children have read it, I would hesitate to recommend it to anyone under the age of 12 unless their parents had specifically said it was alright to do so.
Vicky Angel is about fourteen year old Jade and her best friend, Vicky. After Jade and Vicky have an argument coming out of school one afternoon, Vicky runs into the street and is knocked down by a car and killed.
Jade struggles to come to terms with Vicky’s death, and believes that Vicky’s ghost has come back from the dead to be with her. At first she is thrilled, but with time, as Jade tries to move on, and assert her own personality, her relationship with the ghostly Vicky becomes more fraught and damaging, and Jade has to learn how to let go of Vicky.
Despite not liking it I thought that the book was very well written. It was powerful, and emotive without being saccharine and soppy, and Wilson writes very realistically about what it is to be a teenager, and what it is to grieve for someone you have lost. Jade’s bumpy emotional progress in the weeks and months after Vicky’s death is beautifully drawn and Wilson is very effective at packing an emotional punch.
This would make an excellent book to read if you wanted to deal with the subject of grief, or use it as a springboard to talk about grief, and also potentially unhealthy friendships and relationships. I would recommend it to younger children too, except that there are certain passages in the book which touch on burgeoning teenage sexuality, and also Jade’s thoughts about suicide which may be too much for younger readers to cope with.
It is also very much a book for girls. Although there are boys in the book, and they are quite well drawn, they are all seen through Jade’s eyes and have very minor parts to play in the story as a whole.