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.
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’m pleased to announce that I’m currently on book 3 of Jacqueline Wilson’s Girls series. Unfortunately, that is a little bit longer than the rest and I’m quite busy with work stuff at the moment. So, I’m not actually getting as much reading done. I’d been finishing the other books in two nights but this is proving a bit trickier. Still, I’ll get there. I’d actually finished Girls Under Pressure at the weekend but I couldn’t post my review until today. Not that I mind. I loved being one of the stop’s on the Inside the Sun Virtual Book Tour. Although, the time between finishing the book and writing this might explain why it’s proving a bit difficult. Of course, it might also be the fact that this book means a lot to me. It’s something I’ve already addressed here on the blog and it does make me rather biased.
Yep, another review and another Jacqueline Wilson book. If you’ve been paying attention to my Sunday Rundowns lately, you’ll remember that I recently bought this series of books after I discovered that there was a mystery fourth book. Okay, not a mystery book but a book that I hadn’t read. I also found out that the books had been republished with some absolutely beautiful covers. Of course, these two bits of news meant that I had to buy them all. I started reading the first in the series as soon as I’d finished The Lottie Project because I wanted to keep the nostalgic vibe going. I’ve already talked about one of the books in this series for my 30 Books For My 30th series because they genuinely meant a lot to me. They almost perfectly captured what I felt as a teenager. I was awkward, chubby, and a bit quiet. I’d never identified with a fictional character as much as that before. Okay, when I was little I thought I was Alice from Alice in Wonderland but that was only because my middle name is Alice. It’s not the same. So, I was a bit worried about revisiting these books. What if they didn’t live up? What if they were actually shit and I was just an idiot for loving them? I had to find out.
Dear Jacqueline Wilson,
This letter should be one full of joy and celebrating the news that you’re writing a new Tracy Beaker story. Narrated by Tracy’s 9-year-old daughter. I remember reading The Story of Tracy Beaker as a child. It inspired me in so many ways. I wanted to write. I started keeping a diary. I watched the TV show even when I was far too old to be doing so. I can’t wait to read the newest adventure and see how Tracy grew up. I’m sure I’m not alone. There will be an entire generation of women who grew up with your stories who will have experienced that same wave of nostalgia that I did. It’s the kind of impact you have as a writer.
So why is it not a letter full of joy? In the last few hours I’ve read a lot of negative comments from mothers who have decided your books aren’t appropriate for their daughters. Apparently, they are too dark and mature for their precious flowers. Apparently, your realistic representation of the hardships experienced by a wide range of youths might damage them. Well, as someone who couldn’t stop reading your books when I was younger, they didn’t do me any harm.
Quite the opposite in fact. Your stories for younger children entertained me and got me excited about reading. I pestered my poor mother every time you released a new book. I needed everything you wrote. The Illustrated Mum made me desperate for a tattoo. The Lottie Project made me want to learn more about history. The Bed and Breakfast Star made me want to be funny. The Suitcase Kid made me appreciate my family all the more. Most of all I adored Double Act because it was the first significant book I’d read about being a twin. I saw myself and my sister in the characters of Ruby and Garnet. It helped to read about twins who were so different and drifting apart. It helped to read about characters that I understood. You knew your audience and created novels that would guide them.
As well as teaching them about things they would normally never have seen. Thanks to you I was introduced to children living genuinely difficult lives. You forced me to confront the notion that people in this world have harder lives than I do and to appreciate what I had. Things could always be worse. You made me think about other people before myself. I didn’t necessarily know it at the time but you were already helping me grow into the socially and politically minded woman I am now.
The thing that makes your novels so fantastic is your unwillingness to speak down to your audience. You didn’t try to pussy-foot around them. You didn’t present the world through rose-tinted glasses. You wrote about real problems and real people. You write about the kind of children that might usually be overlooked in children’s stories. You gave a voice to the voiceless and let them know everything could and would be okay. That somebody understood them.
You understood me. One of the most powerful reading experiences I’ve ever had was reading your novel Girls Under Pressure. I’ve never felt so strongly that a novel knew me before. I, like nearly every young person, have always struggled with body image. I’ve never been comfortable with the way I look or, more specifically, with my size. Never more so than the time I was reading your books. Girls Under Pressure could have been written about me. I don’t want to get melodramatic but you quite probably saved me. The amount of time I spent focusing on how fat I was could easily have led to some horrible decisions. Reading a novel about the consequences of eating disorders was enough to force me to see that it wasn’t an easy answer. Refusing to eat or throwing up wouldn’t magically make life okay. I’m still not happy with the way I look but I can say that I’ve never, even during my lowest points, been tempted to walk that line.
You helped me in so many ways. To hear people say they don’t want their children reading your stories is absurd. You taught me more about who I was as a person than anything else I read when I was younger. I appreciate that books like Harry Potter have a lot to teach people but I never saw myself in them. They never really understood me. You did. You seemed to know what I was feeling and were able to tell me it would get better. You changed my life. I normally try to end these letters with an appropriate quotation but that doesn’t seem right here. Instead…
Thank you for everything