Category Archives: Jacqueline Wilson

[REVIEW] Katy – Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson
Penguin Puffin (UK: 30th July 2015; AU: 26th August 2015)
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TRIGGER WARNINGS: Depression, suicidal thoughts, disability slurs, fat-phobia, and fat-shaming.

This is a contemporary reimagining of Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did. Because I haven’t read the classic, who’s to blame for the problematic aspects of Katy?

The author’s note explains that in the original, through prayer and looking after her siblings Katy walks again. Jacqueline Wilson rightly points out that’s not a good message, so she takes the story in her own direction.

If only she’d done that earlier. JW says that the events in the first half of her version mirror Coolidge’s, so I guess that’s who to blame. Katy‘s first 200 pages are filler, inconsequential to the rest of the plot, like vignettes. And while I understand novels should introduce the character and her world before the plot catalyst, 200 pages is far too much and should’ve been condensed.

So who’s to blame for the character of Dorry? I wasn’t prepared for the barrage of fat-phobia and fat-shaming. Dorry is described as “chubby” and “pudgy”, but most often he’s referred to as “greedy”. Pretty much everything he says is about food, and I’m not even exaggerating. His siblings read Dorry’s diary, and it’s all about what he ate. The kids think there’re burglars downstairs, and Dorry worries, “They’ll steal the cakes!” I know he’s only a side character, but he’s one-note and his characterisation needs improvement.

As for the novel’s disability aspect, it seems believable. The awkwardness and embarrassment, the anger and frustration, and the depression – it all rings true. Katy’s disability doesn’t turn her into a saint, but she learns a lot about herself, her friends, and her family (particularly her stepmother).

However, the inclusion of two particular words is questionable. Katy uses the C-word and claims she’s only talking about herself, not her fellow patients, but the nurses rightfully say the word should never be used. There’s also the I-word, which isn’t addressed as much, but rather in a “Katy’s not an [I-word]” kind of way. In the days of Metcards, if you used one that was expired, the I-word would describe the ticket. It’s upsetting that in the novel, the word is used to describe PEOPLE, rather than things.

My other word complaint is “tomboy”. Some may claim it’s not offensive, but it still conforms to outdated notions of gender that outdoorsy, active girls are “tomboys”, as opposed to just being who they are – girls.

Then there’s an action near the end that strikes me as extremely poor judgement. Katy’s PE teacher has been working with her on her ball skills, and Katy wants to join in with the rest of the class playing games. Mr Myers asks Katy if she could sit on the floor with her back to the wall, if he helped her. Katy agrees, but then he offers Katy’s wheelchair to classmates to try out. NO. Just plain NO. You DON’T (or at least you bloody well SHOULDN’T) invite others to use a wheelchair without first obtaining permission from the wheelchair’s regular user – in this case, Katy, who doesn’t call out Mr Myers on his shoddy behaviour. Katy shouldn’t have to call him out, though, because Mr Myers should have some basic common sense and decency! Ugh, this scene really bothers me.

Jacqueline Wilson probably means well with her contemporary reimagining of Susan Coolidge’s classic, but the execution still needs a lot of improvement. Katy’s a wonderful character, but those surrounding her need more fleshing out and less faff.

#CaitlinMoranShouldRead – What It’s About

If you follow anyone in the UK & Irish YA community, you may have come across this today: #CaitlinMoranShouldRead

I don’t really know who Caitlin Moran is: comedian, journalist, “social commentator”, who knows? (I’m Australian; I don’t know UK celebrities.) Anyway, her YA novel (or an adult novel with a 16-year-old protagonist), How to Build a Girl, will be published soon, so The Bookseller interviewed her. The full interview is behind a paywall or something, so we’re stuck with this short piece. Possibly the quotes aren’t in context, so we misunderstand. Thus out of context, her words come across as…well, naive and ignorant towards the YA book community. One of the most commonly given writing advice is to READ a lot in your chosen genre, but the article’s quotes seem to suggest that Ms. Moran hasn’t done her research.

…she was moved to write about teenage sexuality…in response to the Fifty Shades of Grey…phenomenon, which she said had made her “angry and despairing”.

She’s not alone with that last point: that E. L. James’s series seems to portray psychological abuse as “romantic” is a major concern. But that trilogy is aimed at an adult audience, or maybe New Adult – NOT young adult. So linking Fifty Shades with teenage sexuality doesn’t really make sense.

…argued that writing about sexual adventures was important for that age group. “…I wanted to get in there before anyone else and talk about sex.”

That quote: derp. Judy Blume, Jacqueline Wilson, Cecily von Ziegesar. And that’s just the stuff I read – there’re probably many more authors that spring to mind for other readers. Ms. Moran is hardly the first author to think, “Hey, teen girls have sex – I should write about that.”

“It’s always about teenage boys going off and having amazing adventures. You don’t see teenage girls anywhere unless they’re being bitten by vampires so I wanted to write about a funny, weird teenage girl having adventures, particularly sex adventures.”

Apparently, Twilight is the only young adult novel ever published. Who knew. *headdesk* (Besides, Breaking Dawn is all about bed-breaking sexcapades that result in the scariest pregnancy since Alien, and the freakiest child who’s “imprinted” upon as a youngster by the mother’s best friend, and supposedly that’s not paedophiliac, though it kind of is… This book’s totally bonkers, which could be why I find it the most entertaining of the saga.)

And thus #CaitlinMoranShouldRead appeared on Twitter, to…well, recommend books that Caitlin Moran should read. Not sure who started it, and I don’t think Ms. Moran has responded to it yet.

(Kind of off-topic: There’s a car ad with a 1980s synth-pop song about “Space Invaders”. The tune is in my head, but the lyrics are now “sex adventures”, due to that article. Thank you, Ms. Moran.)

So, Caitlin Moran should read…which books about teen girls’ sex adventures?

Gabrielle Carey & Kathy Lette’s Puberty Blues: The voice is spot-on, the scenarios believable.

Judy Blume’s Forever: Don’t put aftershave on testicles!

Jacqueline Wilson’s Girls in Love (series): Don’t think I’d heard the term “slag” before reading this.

Mel Sparke’s Sugar Secrets (series): There’s a funny scene (don’t know in which book) about condom-shopping…

Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl (series) Avoid the spinoffs, and stick with the original series. It’s actually quite satirical and hilarious: Vanessa’s pretentious films, Dan’s pretentious writing, and Chuck Bass is all monogrammed scarves and a monkey on his shoulder. (Don’t know if the monkey was in the TV adaptation.)

But all these are no longer being published, and I read adult erotica (Tiffany Reisz, for the win!) so I don’t know about current teen-girl-sexcapades novels…

Huh. In that case, maybe Ms. Moran has a point.

Melbourne Writers’ Festival, Webcams & Reading Wishlist

Melbourne Writers’ Festival
The schedule for the MWF was released today. Though there are really only two authors I’m interested in seeing, I will say straight out that the Romance Writers of Australia’s conference could learn a lot from the MWF. I only wanted to attend one session/workshop (about 1 hour) of RWA, on a Sunday, and they expect you to pay for all of Saturday and Sunday. Yeah, not going to happen. I’ll try to catch Keri Arthur some other time, because there’s no way I’ll pay for two days’ worth of stuff when I only want to attend a one-hour thing. But if that’s the go in America, I don’t see how y’all can afford to attend so many cons.

SUNDAY 24 AUG: 1-2PM: Undercover with Robert Muchamore (BMW Edge: Free Event)
WEDNESDAY 27 AUG: 11:15AM-12PM: Rachel Cohn in Conversation (ACMI Cinema 1)

Rachel Cohn’s one is actually part of the schools programme, so I’ll have to investigate to see if non-student me is allowed to attend, and what the price is. Students get to pay $6. I have a concession card; would that get me a discount? 😉

A free event with Robert Muchamore? Count me in! Along with Alex Sanchez and Jacqueline Wilson, he’s one of my favourite writers of YA. The plots are great fun, but most of all the characters are so utterly believable. Which makes them less like characters and more like real people, which makes the writing all the more endearing. None of that Mary Sue/Gary Stu faff. Sure the characters are living the fantasy of being spies, but… If you haven’t read the CHERUB series, get to it.

Since the lovely Gwen/Faith Hunter requested, here’s the important stuff to know about webcams:

Is it compatible with your system? I have Windows 2000. Some webcams specify Windows XP or Vista. But the most common reason I saw for people selling their webcams on eBay is that they weren’t compatible with their Macs.

Does it come with a microphone, built-in or otherwise? If not, you’ll have to supply your own.

Does it come with an installation CD? No point buying the cam if it doesn’t have the necessary bits.

Does it come with an instruction manual? Hopefully with English instructions, and not just pictures. (I don’t know if IKEA and I will get along.) Because I’m afraid of screwing things up, I need to know what’s the right way, other than “not what you’re doing” 😉

Did a quick check on JB Hi-Fi, and they sell webcams for $40-60, or something like that. I’m not willing to spend that much, so I hit eBay. I made sure to tick the box so I only saw listings where the seller’s in Australia. (Just makes me feel safer.) My search function always lists from cheapest to most expensive, so I worked through the entries, making sure they listed what I needed to know, and asking if they didn’t. Added some to my Watch List, bid on one, and I won it on Friday: $16 including postage. The seller’s confirmed my payment and left feedback, so now I await the delivery, which’ll probably be on Monday. “Webcam 8 LED 1.3 Mega Pixels USB 2.0” – don’t ask me what the brand is; I don’t know.

Reading Wishlist
I’m slowly working through the list with and UK, and then I’ll hit the Australian publishers’ sites. Where I’ve listed two dates for one title is where Amazon and UK had different dates. Mind you, that doesn’t mean it’s published in both the US and UK – probably just pubbed in the US, and the UK lists when they’ll get it imported. I’m up to the F authors.