The fourth book in Jacqueline Wilson’s Girls series was published 4 years after Girls Out Late. I’m assuming this is the reason that I never knew it existed. After all, it was only 2002 so I would have been 14. Surely that would have been the perfect age to be picking up this book. I would finally have been the same age as Ellie and her friends. But, for whatever reason, I have only just finished reading this book for the first time. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was definitely hoping for something more inspiring than the previous novel. But, as we found on Monday, that wouldn’t take an awful lot.
Girls in Tears is the fourth and final book that follows teenager Ellie and her two friends, Magda and Nadine. In the previous novels, they have dealt with boys, body image, and teenage rebellion. The final book takes us further into the realms of teen angst and tears. This time around, Ellie has to watch as all of the key relationships in her life start to fall apart. She begins to feel alienated from her friends, her boyfriend, and her father. But, at the same time, it looks as though all of her dreams could be coming true. So, will Ellie be able to find a way to keep everything in her life together? Or will she have to face the facts that somethings can’t be fixed?
The book picks up where the previous novel ended. Ellie and Russell are still in a relationship but it’s getting a bit awkward. He is keen for the pair to take their relationship to the next step but she isn’t ready. She is starting to feel as though her first love isn’t quite as grand as she’d hoped. Especially when she discovers that Russell has used some of her artwork to enter a competition. Of course, Ellie would normally turn to her friends at a time like this but Nadine and Magda are getting frustrated with her. Ellie continually puts Russell first so the pair are starting to leave her out of things. They have their secrets and Ellie is getting more jealous. But what is Nadine hiding about her new boyfriend?
As the title suggests, this book is certainly brimming with teen angst. Ellie feels as though her whole life is falling apart. It’s the kind of behaviour that is highly recognisable as teen girl behaviour. Everything is melodramatic but 14-year-olds are melodramatic. Every fight with a friend feels like the end of the world and every little problem feels like it’s never going to be resolved. Then there are your parents. Of course, you teenagers never think that their parents understand them and, when Ellie’s dad starts to be overly critical of her, she starts to lash out. I still feel as though Jacqueline Wilson writers convincing teenagers and that she has an innate understanding of teenage worries.
Although, saying that, I have found this series to be overly concerned with boys for my liking. I know that its something of a cliche that all young people are obsessed with finding love but it would have been nice if the other layers of these books featured so prominently. Ellie and her friends are intelligent and witty girls. Yet, the majority of the books are taken over by them talking about boys. Of course, it could just be something that annoys me as an adult but I do wish that the books were encouraging people to look beyond romance. Ellie dreams of being a graphic designer but school is never her top priority. It would have been a good counterpoint to see her trying to move towards her goal academically.
Speaking of love, some of the issues with the last book are still present here. There can be no denying that Russell is a terrible boyfriend. He tries to pressure Ellie into having sex before she’s ready, he tries to emotionally blackmail her into doing what he wants, he shames her, he steals her idea, speaks down to her, and kisses one of her best friends. Yet, the novel ends with the suggestion that the pair will end up together. There can be no question about the fact that this is a terrible message to give to young girls. He is Ellie’s first boyfriend and the fact that she keeps excusing his behaviour is terrible. Just because he’s the first boy to show and interest in her doesn’t mean she should be willing to overlook anything. Presenting this relationship as love is a dangerous message to young girls.
Although, I think the storyline involving Nadine’s online boyfriend is an important one for them to read. When she starts talking to a mysterious boy online, Ellie tries to warn Nadine of the dangers of telling him too much. But Nadine, obviously, won’t listen. Yes, the final reveal of his identity isn’t exactly surprising but it does raise a good point. Maybe it’s a bit of a moot point these days and the storyline might lack subtlety. However, it does provide an important message for young girls to be careful about who they trust. It’s not as if any of the greatest fables or moral tales are overcome with subtlety, so I think I can forgive this.
You can tell that, as these books went on, Wilson wanted to make them more mature and a bit darker. Where the previous book saw the girls go off with a group of strange men, this one has Ellie and her friends getting drunk at a party. I’m not entirely sure that it’s handled correctly but she’s trying to create something meaningful. I definitely think the first two books are stronger and more engaging reads. However, Wilson’s writing is always strong and the final books are enjoyable enough. The final book just feels like a rather muted end to the series.