Friday, 27 April 2012

Jacqueline Wilson's Lola Rose

This is somewhat of a rant, so apologies. I recently reread Jacqueline Wilson's Lola Rose, which was one of my favourite books as a young teenager. It's about a young girl, Jayni, and her family. After her mum wins the lottery (£10,000) Jayni, her younger brother Kenny, and her mum run away from the  abusive dad who beats up Jayni's mum regularly. Once they run away they start a new life and Jayni chooses a new name, Lola Rose. Sadly, it's not as easy as they expected and many bad things befall them, especially when the lottery money runs out. Anyway, you can read it if you really want.

Here comes the ranty bit.

So, I thought I would reread it as I have read quite a few adult books recently, not necessarily hard but ones that can be a bit wearing, basically Dan Brown. It's nice to take a break and read something easy, and you don't get any easier than children's books. I have only kept a few of my Jacqueline Wilson books, mainly the more young adult ones. As Lola Rose was one of my favourites I was excited to read it again. When I was younger I always thought that Lola Rose was about 12 - 13 years old. I was surprised when halfway through the book it is said that she was going to primary school with her brother. Primary school? She's only in year six? That makes her 10 going on 11. No way. Her voice sounds like she is at least a teenager. I thought Wilson always had a child's voice to a T but I'm starting to doubt it now.

When Lola Rose arrives at her new year six class her first thoughts are 'I thought I was quite tall but lots of the girls were much bigger than me, and so grown-up! They wore tight designer tops that showed their figures, and they had elaborate plaited hairstyles and nose rings and fantastic fingernails.' Now, this may be a reflection of where the school is located; I imagine London children might be more grown-up than the kids are where I live in Devon. If not, then why are these ten year old girls wearing figure showing clothes and have piercings? That's a bit worrying to me.

In the first chapter her mum wins the lottery. Lola Rose, or Jayni as she's called then, says that they shouldn't tell dad as he'll just spend it or ruin it. She then says she always has to be the sensible one in the family. It seems weird that a ten year old is more mature than a mother.

Lola Rose is also already obsessed with her weight. What kind of ten year old is worried about their weight? She talks about how good looking her ex-model mum is, she then goes on to say 'I've tried locking the bathroom door and stripping down to my knickers and trying out some of those poses myself. I look  ridiculous. I'm as tall as my mum but I haven't got a proper figure. It doesn't go in and out in the right places.' Does that really sound like something a ten year old says? I don't think I even considered those types of things at that age. After her dad hits her, spurring them to finally run away, Jayni says 'My teeth felt funny too. I hoped they weren't going to fall out. Still, it might make my cheeks look hollow.' Why would a child care about their fat face? It's crazy.

Another passage says that she is getting too big for children's clothes and they buy her a new jackets from the women's section, which implies that she is not a child any more. She also buys a pair of new shoes. 'Oh, those new shoes - wonderful, strappy sling-back stilettos for Mum and my first pair of proper grown-up heels too. They were only little heels but I still couldn't cross the room in them without twisting my ankles.' Do children care much about shoes, it seems more like a teenager obsession.

Lola Rose knows a lot about sex and relationships too. A bit too much. When her mum has a fling with a footballer Lola Rose knows it is wrong and has to tell her mum to stop before her dad finds out and does something bad. Once her mum gets a job at a pub she seems to get chummy with the pub owner.  Lola Rose doesn't like this and says 'It sounds like this Barry guy is more interested in your nice bum.' A bit of an adult comment. Then her mum gets a new boyfriend Jake. Lola Rose states 'I wasn't in any hurry to meet him. I was very glad that we only had one bedroom , and Kendell and I were sprawled right across the only bed.' It would never have crossed my ten year old mind that adults did naughty things on a bed. Lola Rose even puts on a lot of make-up, she knows how to apply it better than I do now, and goes out in her mum's clothes to meet boys. She even wants to snog. I'm pretty sure at that age boys are still icky.

I'm not sure if this is a statement on what a bad parent the mum is or what, but she often leaves Lola Rose on her own for long periods of time. Is this a usual thing for mums to do? My mum never left me alone at night when I was ten but then some others might have. I may just have a nice mum.

Now you tell me, does this sound like something a ten year old would say; 'You've been down the pub drinking while I've been worrying myself sick wondering where you are!' Is this just Wilson trying to get across that Lola Rose is very grown-up, because she's made her point heavily. Obviously, Lola Rose had to grow up quickly because her mum wasn't being very grown up but it seems to be getting a bit ridiculous now.

The worst thing to happen in the book is Lola Rose's mum gets breast cancer. I don't think I knew what cancer was at her age. I mean, I probably heard of it before but Lola Rose seems to know everything about it, like how bad it is and what could happen. It surprised me a bit.

There are so many examples of a much older voice in this book and I can't mention them all. I'm planning on doing a young adult novel for my Extended Creative Piece (the Creative Writing version of a dissertation) and I always thought Wilson's work was a good example of how to write a child's voice. I not so sure any more. Or maybe being a ten year old is a lot different to how I remembered it. I will have to read more of Wilson's work again to gage if all of them have off-putting voices.

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