Regular readers will know (if there are any of you left out there, after my appalling slovenliness of late) that I occasionally dip my toe into the water of the world of Jacqueline Wilson. There are several reasons for this:
She is the most borrowed author from UK libraries, and is persistently popular with almost every girl reader I have ever come across. There is not a single child of the female sex I have yet met who does not flirt with Wilson’s novels. Most of them are obsessed. If you’re going to recommend books to children, it really helps to be au fait with what they read. It lets them see that it is alright for adults to read children’s fiction and plants the seed, conversely, that it is alright for children to read adult fiction. It also means they trust you when you say you think they will like something.
My oldest girl, now fifteen, went through a phase of reading everything by Wilson she could get her hands on. My middle child, who is now eleven, has been reading her books for about four years now with varying degrees of enthusiasm. At the moment she is piling through some of Wilson’s more teen based fiction. Her particular favourites are the Girls in Love series, the first of which I took on holiday with me to read. She was very keen that I read it. She still believes that one day I will find the book that will convert me into being a Wilson fan.
The book Girls in Love made the BBC Big Read top 100 books, and I am steadily reading my way through them all, so it had to be done.
I have to say that this is not the book that is going to convert me into being a fan of Wilson. Sorry Tallulah.
As with all of her other books I’ve read, I can totally see why girls love them, but I find them miserable, unhelpful and sometimes just plain distressing.
This book tells the story of Ellie (through Ellie’s eyes), and her two friends as they start to fall seriously in love with boys. Ellie feels fat and insecure and hates her burgeoning body. She feels overlooked in her new family (step mum and young brother), and out of place as her two gorgeous friends find it easy to get boyfriends, and all she gets is the unwanted adoration of a dorky boy she meets on holiday in Wales. Ellie starts to embroider a fantasy boyfriend, and the whole thing gets rather out of hand as the world of her imagination and the world of her reality collide.
If I were eleven again, I’d probably love this. As it is, I found it irritating and a bit sad and it brought back the persistent wonder as to why anyone would choose to read this kind of thing for fun. Having said that, if I asked a bunch of eleven year old’s to appreciate Wuthering Heights I’m sure they’d have the same question for me.
So, great for girls, not at all for boys in any way shape or form.
It’s good in that it talks about tricky family relationships. It’s good in that it talks about the ups and downs of friendships and how friends are important, even when they fall out with each other. It is good in that it talks frankly about girls having relationships with older boys and the question of whether you can or indeed want to have sex with them. It has a lot to say about the speed with which young girls are required to grow into young adults these days, and it handles that in a non patronising, useful way.
Perfect for girls aged eleven to fifteen/sixteen. I wouldn’t go lower on age, not because it’s difficult to read but because it does talk about sexual experimentation and drugs, albeit in a reasonably informed and not at all gratuitous way.
Younger girls will undoubtedly read it. Wilson writes for children of all ages, and they’re not going to be satisfied by an adult trying to stop them reading through her massive oeuvre, but you need to be prepared for questions and/or discussions if you’re going to allow younger children to read this material. If you’re uncomfortable with it, there are about four million other Wilson books out there, so you are bound to be able to deflect attention away from this one for a while longer should you wish.