I looked back at the weirdest Jacqueline Wilson books and honestly what did we even read
God these were bleak?!?!
Jacqueline Wilson books were the staple of every British kid’s childhood. They were also unbelievably unsettling, bleak and kinda weird???
Remember Tracy Beaker pretending to have hay fever? That girl who mummified her cat? The girl abandoned in a bin as a baby? The underage romance between a homeschooled girl from a cult and her art teacher? Did Lola Rose really watch a shark for an hour in a vain attempt to cure her mother’s breast cancer? And is there anyone who knows what happened to Marigold?
Spanning over 100 books, her themes of childhood death, spousal abuse, and foster home culture in unrelentingly bleak plots defined a generation. Mums are now calling for some of her books to be banned based on how dark they are.
I looked back on all the plots of Jacqueline Wilson books, and honestly what the fuck:
The Story of Tracy Beaker
Tracy lives between foster homes, a woman called Cam’s flat, and fantasises that her Very Famous Actress mum (I think she was a porn star, you know) is coming to get her every Saturday morning. If you didn’t have a burning hatred for Justine Littlewood, you had no heart.
This is just fucking dark. Newborn baby April is dumped in a bin, passed through various horrible foster homes (including one where she is almost drowned in a bath by a girl called Pearl, possibly a weird revenge act on society for allowing someone to name her Pearl, then shoves Pearl down the stairs, oh misery sweet misery), before a brief stint with adoptive parents (spoiler: the adoptive mother kills herself), is eventually adopted by her History teacher (played expertly by Juliet Stevenson in the TV adaptation).
The novel ends with April being reunited with Frankie, the pizza boy who found her in the bin as a newborn, and I’m still confused about this ending. Is this meant to feel redemptive? Bittersweet? Honestly, I feel like I need a drink after rereading this.
The Worry Website
Remember those schoolkids who used singing about their abusive parents as a kind of form of anxiety exorcism? No, that wasn’t a fever dream, that was written, published, put in print, bought and read in the laps of young kids. That existed.
After giving her father a lingerie-induced heart attack, 14-year-old home-schooled Prue goes to school and falls in love with her art teacher Rax. FOURTEEN.
The Illustrated Mum
Heartbreaking and very unhinged, Dolphin and Star (the implications of child abuse should have stopped there, the mere act of naming your children that deserves legal intervention) are the two daughters of a heavily tattooed mother. There’s a weird, sad stigma around her body, and she ends up covering herself in white paint head to toe when Star leaves to live with her dad, Mickey in Bristol.
Obviously, they both end up in foster care, as is the theme with any JW book. God, this was sad.
For real, this book slaps. After Floss’ mother abandons her to move to Australia (her characterisation ended at liking sunbeds), she moves in with her dad, Charlie, who owns a chip shop. Floss eats chip barms and ultimately dyes her hair pink. A Northern icon. 10/10. Would read again.
Fleeing an abusive dad with the help of a £10k win on a scratchcard, Lola Rose moves to London and becomes obsessed with and terrified of sharks. It somehow got even more bleak when her mum contracted breast cancer, and Lola thought she could cure her if she faced her selachophobia by watching a shark swim about for an hour. Wild stuff.
Sylvie and Carl are childhood friends, in the midst of a weird parental assumption that because they’ve known each other since crawling days that they’ll eventually shag, both inexplicably obsessed with glass.
Basically: Sylvie makes friends with the Popular Girl, Miranda, who fancies Carl, but obviously ends up dating a guy named Paul (I’m pretty sure he was said to own a skateboard and a fringe). On a group excursion to a glass exhibition at Kew Gardens, Carl kisses Paul, and when rejected, smashes up his and Sylvie’s glass haven.
I lived vicariously through the rebellious chapter where Sylvie and Miranda sack off school to drink economy vodka and eat Cornettos in the park and felt cheated that my teen years didn’t emulate this same act.
The Diamond Girls
Almost like a Louis Theroux weird weekend, a mother of five adopts her van man Bruce and pretends her newborn child is female. There’s a dark subplot where Dixie, the youngest, befriends her neighbour Mary who is abused by her mother and jumps out of a window. Laugh a minute.