Incredibly, the 111th novel from Jacqueline Wilson, 74, is her first love story with a gay narrator. It was written in response to reader demand, she has said, and perhaps has a nod to Wilson’s own story; she fell in love with a woman 18 years ago and they remain happily together. It was worth the wait and, as with most of Wilson’s novels, within the first few pages you are rooting for the nasties as much as the nicies. In a Wilson tale there is no such thing as a character beyond redemption. Frankie, on the cusp of 14, is an original. The middler of three girls she dresses like a scruff ball, preferring her mum’s old holey rainbow jumper to her elder sister’s hip gear, defies trends and still finds time to play Sylvanians with her little sister, Rowena.
There’s a reason why Wilson has sold more than 40m books. Yet again she delivers a touching, bittersweet drama about ordinary, credible kids with ordinary, credible lives. The characterisation is spot on, showing real insight into how today’s youngsters think, talk and behave, and Frankie’s story beautifully conveys the thrill of first love and the additional complications that being gay can bring to it.