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Were You a Jacqueline Wilson Kid?

Jacqueline Wilson’s books formed a massive part of a lot of our childhoods. But was this always a good thing? And if not, why?

I was even able to find some Jacqueline Wilson books in my University library!
Photo: Laura Rowe

‘Jacqueline Wilson’ books have recently been dominating my TikTok ‘For You Page’. Young adults have been sharing reviews of the Jacqueline Wilson books that they read as children. In particular, they have been concentrating on things that maybe they understand as a child.

What are ‘Jacqueline Wilson’ books?

So, most importantly, what actually are these books? For those of you who didn’t grow up with Jacqueline Wilson’s books, let me quickly explain what these are.

Her books are children’s fiction, notable for featuring difficult topics such as adoption, divorce and without alienating her large readership. They became most popular in the 1990s to early 2010s.

This means that those reading the books when they were first released are now all in their twenties – including me! The older end of Gen Z is now all (just about!) grown-up. There is a much wider TikTok trend involving the older Gen Z-ers revisiting their childhood for a dose of nostalgia.

Jaqueline Wilson’s books are characterized by their illustrations by Nick Sharratt. (Image Credit: The Guardian/ YouTube)

Why are Jacqueline Wilson’s Books trending on TikTok?

These books are having a TikTok resurgence amongst Gen Z members who read every Jacqueline Wilson book.

Many creators have taken to TikTok to discuss these books. It is a way for Gen Z to indulge in a bit of nostalgia. However, this is not the only reason.

Creators are discussing parts of the novels which went over their heads as children. And some are even suggesting that these parts shouldn’t have been included…

Jacqueline Wilson’s books were such an influential part of many people’s childhood. As Gen Z is growing up it is only natural that we are revisiting our childhoods.

I was even able to find some Jacqueline Wilson books in my University library!
I was even able to find some Jacqueline Wilson books in my University library! (Image Credit: Laura Rowe)

What is BookTok?

These types of discussions form part of a community on TikTok, BookTok.

BookTok, in simplest terms, is an online community on TikTok where ‘BookTokers’ share videos of their favorite books, genres, hauls, and bookcases, to their followers for recommendations and aesthetic purposes. 

BookTok is a place where ‘BookTokers’ can share videos of their favorite books, genres, and bookcases. It is great for recommendations and finding like-minded people. In fact, if you ask someone for a book recommendation now, you’ll usually be met with the phrase ‘BookTok influenced me to read…’.

It features videos of short reviews or recommendations and has arguably helped many books reach great levels of success!

What is being said about the books?

Jacqueline Wilson is known to tackle many difficult topics, and for the most part does this spectacularly. She has addressed children in care (The Story of Tracy Beaker), mental health (The Illustrated Mum), falling in love (Love Lessons), and even grief (My Sister Jodie). Her books don’t just assume that everyone is growing up with a picture-perfect life. They explore big themes, and often Wilson tackles these difficult issues in a nuanced and sensitive way, allowing the children to connect with the stories.

And, at the same time, the characters are funny, larger-than-life, and relatable. Exactly the kind of people you would want as a friend.

Wilson has written over 100 books according to Penguin. She mostly writes Children’s Literature but she covers several age categories within this.

Typically the books fall into 3 categories:

7-8 years:

Being aimed at young children, these books are more lighthearted. Examples of her books for this age category include Sleepovers, Double Act, and Best Friends. All of these address friendship and include age-appropriate material.

9-12 years:

This is probably the category which Wilson has written the most for and is best known for. This includes works like The Diamond Girls, Hetty Feather, The Longest Wale Song, and Lily Alone. Books in this category tackle some tough subjects whilst not alienating their audience.

Jacqueline Wilson is best known for her 9-12 books
(Image Credit: Laura Rowe)

13+ years:

This is Wilson’s most controversial category. It includes books like Dustbin Baby, Girls Under Pressure, and Love Lessons.

So what is the problem?

But as with everything, the books aren’t perfect. Many creators have been raising the issue that the books seem to promote some of these issues. The stories are narrated in first person. This means the story is through the eyes of the narrator.

As the main characters are children, the narrators are unreliable. The story is from their perspective which often fails to omit that things happening are a) not their fault and b) not right.

Love Lessons by Jaqueline Wilson
‘Love Lessons’ by Jacqueline Wilson has caused quite a stir on TikTok
(Image Credit: Amy McLean/ YouTube)

Love Lessons demonstrates this the best. 14-year-old Prudence ‘Prue’ King falls in love with her teacher. Nothing too problematic here. That is until this teacher ‘loves’ her back. From Prue’s perspective, this is great, and it is presented as this in the book. This means that for a young audience, this relationship is not presented as wrong.

The story requires the reader to already know that the teacher is in the wrong. It relies on foreknowledge, and without this, the story can be easily misconstrued. In the book, Prue is blamed and punished for the relationship.

Whilst Wilson is raising essential awareness, the message can be lost or misinterpreted. For a text with a young audience, clarity is essential.

Should We Still Be Promoting Jacqueline Wilson Books?

Yes, some of these books are problematic. Some of them contain themes that some might say are not suitable for children to read – especially unsupervised. But on the flip side, the books address topics that some children may be struggling with. It is essential that all children can see themselves represented in literature.

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Hi, I'm Laura. I am currently the life editor for Trill Mag, where I love developing pitches, editing articles and writing my own as well as being an SEO writer! I'm studying English Literature at the University of York, where I am the deputy editor for the university newspaper York Vision.

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