As I mentioned in one of my 30 Books for my 30th posts, I was incredibly excited about the release of this new Tracy Beaker book. I’ve loved Jacqueline Wilson since I was a young girl and would say that she definitely inspired me when I was growing up. The Story of Tracy Beaker was one of the first of her books that I read so the idea of revisiting the character now she was also an adult was exciting. This was going to be one of those literary events that bring together readers young and old. It would appeal to readers of the target age of Wilson’s books and the now grown-up readers who enjoyed her books as children. And it was a literary event that I knew that I couldn’t miss. I genuinely couldn’t wait to get started on this book. Although, kickoff was delayed somewhat thanks to Matt fucking Haig. But as soon as I opened that first page it was like going back in time. Back to a time when reading was constantly magical. When I only ever read books that were fun and I never felt guilty about how quickly I was getting through them. My Mum Tracy Beaker was a book I was only reading for myself. It didn’t matter how literary or worthwhile it was. It didn’t matter how great it was going to be. It was all about getting back to that childish love of reading that Jacqueline Wilson first helped to instil in me. It was a celebration of who I was, who I am now, and who I could be afterwards. It was a celebration of everything that Wilson did for me as a child. Basically, this book was kind of a big deal.
Tracy first appeared in literature way back in 1991 and she made quite the impression. The young girl growing up in a care home but who never stops dreaming of her perfect life. The girl who constantly made up lies to help her get through and who will fight anyone who tries to make her do something she doesn’t want to. The girl with the tough exterior but the heart of gold. Tracy was the main character that nobody wanted to read about but who burst onto the scene and into everyone’s hearts. Over the years, she has continued to thrive in sequel novels, a television adaptation, and several spin-off shows. So it begs the question, what happened to Tracy when she grew up?
A question that My Mum Tracy Beaker strives to answer. We meet up with Tracy again through the eyes of her young daughter, Jess. A girl who looks exactly like her mother but with glasses yet who possesses more maturity and restraint. Unlike Tracy, Jess grew up always knowing a loving parent so she never the need to mask her fears and doubts. Her mother put up barriers to stop herself getting hurt by potential parental figures. Jess is comfortable and happy with her family life. She has the luxury of showing her emotions. Including the embarrassment she often feels when Tracy’s temper gets the better of her.
Despite her troubled childhood, Tracy has made a good job of parenting but is struggling in other aspects of her life. She is living in a dingy council flat, is a single mother, and is stuck doing the kind of jobs that don’t exactly pave the way for the celebrity lifestyle she used to dream about. None of this matters one jot to her daughter but Tracy still feels like she and Jess are missing out. So, when an old acquaintance who has done very well for himself walks back into her life, Tracy sees the chance to give Jess the home she has always wanted for her. Her old friend, Football, (introduced in the sequel The Dare Game) is now ex-professional footballer, Sean Godfrey, who owns a massive house, a fancy car, and a swimming pool. Tracy easily starts to see her future with Sean but Jess isn’t so sure.
My Mum Tracy Beaker does a decent job of describing the situation of a young child having to come to terms with their parent’s new relationship. Tracy jumps into her new relationship and is obsessed with Sean. She is flattered with his attention and happy with to be in a happy relationship for once. But Jess doesn’t see the ideal lifestyle that everyone else does. The tensions that form between mother and daughter feel incredibly realistic and Jess’s actions are perfectly understandable. In fact, as a character, Jess is someone who I think young readers will definitely be able to empathise with. She is a shy child who likes reading, hates sports, and just really wants a dog. She is the kind of child that Wilson is writing the book for. A child who worries about things that they, really, shouldn’t be worrying about.
My Mum Tracy Beaker is full of all the things that have made Wilson such a popular writer with young people. It is fun, relatable, and isn’t afraid to show us that real life, quite often, sucks. Tracy still dreams of her fairytale ending but Jess has lower expectations. She is quite content in her little flat with her mother. It’s not the perfect life but it is a happy one. And that’s the point that Wilson has always tried to bring across to her readers. Not all lives are the same but there is the same potential for happiness out there for us all. You just need to keep looking for it. Reading this book brought back all those old feelings and made me feel like a kid again. It’s something that people of all ages can and should enjoy.
However, it can’t be denied that at my more mature age I had some issues with Wilson’s book. There was a lot of repetition in the narrative and a lot of recapping from previous stories that I found quite tedious. I realise that she needed to introduce new readers to Tracy and co but it seemed to go on a bit too much. Then there’s the LGBTQ storyline which I felt was a bit pathetic. Instead of openly discussing a character’s sexuality, Wilson has her characters talk about it in innuendos. I feel like an author who is so willing to push certain boundaries should have been more willing to include an openly gay presence in her books. Instead, it is pushed into the background. It feels like a missed opportunity.
The story is quite predictable and obvious but I can’t really fault that. It’s written for a specific audience that I’m not part of. Yes, there are aspects of the story that solely cater to the grown-up readers but, ultimately, this is a story meant to be enjoyed by children. As such, it does everything it needs to do. It is sweet, funny, and drama filled. New and old fans of Tracy Beaker will enjoy everything about this and, hopefully, it will introduce plenty of new readers to the joy of Jacqueline Wilson’s books.
Who is Murdocal? A casual critic who is a little bit too obsessed with pop culture. A young woman who swears and rants much more than she knows she should whilst trying to make her way in an adult world she isn't prepared for. A not as recent as she'd like literature graduate who, between job applications and subsequent rejections, has turned to the internet to fight the boredom and review the shit out of everything.
"Maybe, just maybe, I'm the faller. Every family has someone who falls, who doesn't make the grade, who stumbles, who life trips up. Maybe I'm our faller."