Monday, 20 November 2006

Love Lessons, Jacqueline Wilson, 2005

LOVE LESSONS Jacqueline Wilson illustrated by Nick Sharratt, Doubleday, 2005, hardback, 264 pages, NZ$36.95 ISBN 0-385-60836-5

Jaqueline Wilson creates engaging, slightly out-of-step characters who lodge in our minds. Prue is an intelligent, bookish 14 year-old whose father owns a bookshop. This might sound like heaven but Prue’s rigidly controlling father, suspicious of the modern world, has home-schooled his two daughters, keeping them isolated from the corruptions of society, such as television and friends. (Prue has Jane Eyre as an imaginary friend.) When Dad has a stroke, the girls have to start school. Grace blossoms and finds friends but Prue, embarrassed by her home-made clothes and lack of social skills, is frustrated and ashamed. Her only joy is in art lessons and she soon has a crush on Rax, the art teacher. The distress this situation causes to all involved is sympathetically described, while Prue’s achievements in teaching her father to speak again and helping her first real friend, a dyslexic boy, offer hope for her future. It will be the more mature readers who will gain most from this powerful and touching story.

Trevor Agnew

First published in The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand in January 2006.

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