Review Blog

May 11 2010

Little Darlings by Jacqueline Wilson

cover image

Doubleday 2010.
(Ages 11+)Recommended. I always judge a book according to my willingness to put it down, and I devoured the last third of Little Darlings without moving from the sofa. She maybe the author of nearly forty books, but Jacqueline Wilson is still flying high with engaging characters and gripping storylines. Little Darlings spans the council estates of Manchester and the mansions of Cheshire, as Wilson reveals the ridiculous overindulgence of celebrity parents with pots of money and no common sense.
Ageing rock star Danny Kilman hasn't made a record in years, but still flirts with fame as 'Hi!' Magazine regularly features him and his delightful family. His younger children, Sweetie and Ace lap up the attention, but Sunset aged ten is the ugly duckling. Longing for love and normality, she feels like the odd one out in a family that values appearance and possessions above everything else. During a film premier, Sunset stumbles across Manchester school girl Destiny Williams and her Mum, who have travelled to London for a glimpse of Danny Kilman. Sunset discovers that Destiny is Danny's unacknowledged child and therefore her own half sister.
Destiny and Sunset become friends but discover that their lives are poles apart. You could describe Little Darlings as a searing indictment of celebrity culture, but in the end it's about Sunset, trying to protect her younger siblings as family life crumbles around them, and Destiny, living on a sink estate with mould on the ceiling and a Mum who's holding down three jobs to make ends meet. Wilson writes about extremes and the dramatic fallout when such extremes collide. Thank goodness things resolve with a fairytale finish for Destiny and a glimmer of hope for poor Sunset. As usual Wilson does not pull any punches. There are references to domestic abuse and inner city knife and gang culture, and a close scrutiny of family breakdown that will be all too familiar for some young readers. This will delight Jacqueline's fans and I would recommend it for mature top junior and secondary students.
Claire Larson

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