Book Review – Girls Out Late by Jacqueline Wilson

books, reviews

wp-15891482906048729108146096229410.jpg5_star_rating_system_2_stars I had such high hopes for this weekend and had plans to get shit done. Instead, I ended up getting caught up in the Tories Coronavirus updates and I lost the urge to do anything. This whole situation is terrible but when you’re being told what to do by an inadequate and greedy government, it’s hard not to worry about it a bit. Now that people are being encouraged to go back to work it’s only a matter of time before I’m expected to go in. I’m hoping it won’t be for a while though. Officially, I’m supposed to still be in quarantine for 6 weeks or so. But, with everything so vague, I guess we can’t be sure of anything right now. And I shouldn’t really worry about myself. I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home. It’s the people being forced to go back this week that I feel bad for. Hopefully, the Tories won’t be risking so many more innocent lives. Enough of this. Let’s talk about the thing we’re all here for: books.

I’ve been rereading the whole of Jacquline Wilson’s Girls series in the last week and the previous instalments have been wonderfully nostalgic. When I was younger, the third book in the series wasn’t my favourite. Out of them all, it was the one that I related to the least and I just really hated Russell. Ellie and her friends were just making stupid mistakes left right and centre. For me, it seemed to be verging away from reality a bit more. I also wasn’t impressed with the continuity from the previous book. In Girls Under Pressure, Ellie started to suffer from an eating disorder and there is very little mention to it here. Ellie seemed to get over it quickly and I think it really diminished the power of the previous book. Watching her slow recovery and her slow acceptance of her body would have been more impactful than her getting over it almost instantly.

Yes, there are a few mentions about eating and feeling fat here but the topic of this book is definitely on other things. This is the book where Ellie gets her first real boyfriend and has to deal with the headaches that come along with it. She meets an older boy on an evening out with her friends and he ends up walking her home. Unfortunately, they get a bit distracted and Ellie ends up getting home late. Her dad and stepmother ground her which results in Ellie starting her rebellious teen phase. Sneaking out to meet her new boyfriend and lying to her dad become second nature. But what will Ellie do when she has to choose between her boyfriend and her best friends?

Especially as they’re both making silly mistakes as well. Nadine is still sorting out her feelings for her creepy ex-boyfriend Liam. When she spots him with a girl in the year below, she can’t help herself and decides to confront him. But will Nadine go back to him? At the same time, Magda has developed an intense crush on the girls’ art teacher and decides she has to tell him. What will happen when she goes to visit him at his flat? Adding to Ellie’s woes is her home life. Anna, her stepmother, starts to worry that her dad is having an affair. What will it mean for Ellie is Anna leaves just as they’re starting to become friends?

There’s a lot going on in this book but we never really get time to deal with it. This was the first book that made me feel as though Wilson was trying to do too much. I understand that she’s looking at the different aspects of being a teenage girl but there are four separate storylines to contend with. This means most of them end up being thin and underdeveloped. The focus is, obviously on Ellie and Russell, and the others just sort of happen in the background. Fights take place and are resolved a page later. I just wish that this had been more focused. It makes the novel feel messy when you compare it to the previous two novels. It also feels kind of boring at the same time. I know you’d think that is as crammed with plot points as this would feel anything but. However, the lack of depth to it all just makes the whole thing quite dull.

I also think that Wilson maybe went a bit too far with her stories. I know that teenage girls have different experiences but I also think the scenarios in this book are a bit too melodramatic. The girls’ night out in London feels like something out of a soap opera and even as a teenager I thought it was a bit ridiculous. 14-year-old girls as stupid but to get in a van with a load of strange men? I’m not sure the majority of teens would take that path. Then there’s Magda’s storyline. That just made me cringe. Yes, teenage girls get crushes on their teachers all the time but to have her go to his flat? It’s just ridiculous. And I wasn’t happy about the way she resolved that storyline. It sends the wrong message.

Finally, and most importantly, there’s the central relationship of the whole book. Let’s be honest, Russell is a terrible boyfriend. He emotionally blackmails Ellie into doing things she doesn’t want to do. He’s jealous of her friends. Tries to push her into moving too quickly. Shames her. Speaks down to her. He treats her so badly but we’re supposed to find him endearing. Ellie lets him get away with this behaviour and then Wilson paints their relationship as a fairytale ending. This isn’t the type of relationship that we should be encouraging young girls to be striving for. The last book in this series was dealing with an important issue for young people. This one just feels like trash in comparison. As if Wilson just went down the road of basic romance. It’s disappointing.

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