Book Title: Midnight
Author: Jacqueline Wilson
Genre: Children’s Literature, Realism
Published: December 2003
Publisher: Doubleday UK
Star Rating: ★★
For today’s Berg’s Book Club, I will be reviewing Midnight by Jacqueline Wilson. Wilson is a well-known children’s author. With over 100 books published, many of which are outstanding, it is understandable that some of her books will be under her normal standards and not what we expect from this normally amazing children’s writer.
That is the case today as I review her book, Midnight, a story about emotional abuse, a teenage girl’s obsessions with fairies and running away from home.
Ok, before writing this review, I set myself a task to see how many Wilson books I can get through. I kind of gave up on that challenge. Maybe I will read them all one day. Hopefully, the rest
Midnight Book Review
With good books under her belt, I was surprised to come across this book, Midnight. It doesn’t read like a Wilson book at all. It’s very… well, not Wilson. I think the problem in this book is the character’s motivation for her plot. So what is the book about?
Trigger Warning: Emotional Abuse
Ok, I have done something I have never done in a book review before, I have given 2 versions of
My version of the synopsis:
Violet lives with her parents and her big brother Will. She struggles to make friends and to escape the control of her big brother until new school-girl, Jasmine, enrols at the school. But can Jasmine’s influence save Violet from her brother’s grasp?
Violet has always been in the shadow of her mesmerizing, controlling brother Will — by turns delightful and terrifying. Now that Will has learned a shocking secret about his own past, things seem to be getting worse. Violet retreats further into her fantasy world built around the fairy characters created by her favourite author, Casper Dream. The arrival of Jasmine, a new girl at school who immediately befriends Violet, seems like it might change Violet’s life for the better and allow her to break free of Will’s spell. But is Jasmine a true friend?
In truth, none of the synopsises sound bad, but…
As I am sure you are aware, Wilson is a children’s writer who doesn’t shy away from telling stories about the suffering of children. These books are usually character-led stories that lend themselves to the plot. Katy, Hetty Feather and Lily Alone are just a few of many examples.
However, Midnight is different for this reason. The character doesn’t lend itself to the plot. Instead, the conclusion of the story has nothing to do with Violet’s issues with her brother but with her obsession. This leaves the book ending with a feeling of unsettlement between Violet and Will that I feel should be addressed.
Solving the emotional abuse
I think what went wrong in this story is the multiplot storyline Wilson attempted. Violet has an obsession with fairies created by her favourite author Casper Dreams, struggles to make friends and is emotionally abused by her brother—who just happens to be adopted and uses that as his excuse for his behaviour.
I don’t mind multiplot storylines as long as the main plot gets resolved and to me, the most important one here would be the relationship and emotional abuse between Will and his sister. At first, the book did look as if it had it covered, using Violet’s only and new friend, Jasmine as the person to mentor and save Violet but that changed as the book went on.
Jasmine is caught kissing Will and Violet feels betrayed. She runs away and finds the author, Casper Dreams. When she returns, she discovers that Will is nice to her. But this to me seems like something an abuser would do after the fear of losing someone before they return back to their normal self—the book also makes it so that the reader knows Will can be nice when he wants to be.
For this reason, I think this book falls under the same responsibility as My Sister Jodie in terms of responsibility for young children. Yes, things seemed to be looking up at the end, but I don’t feel it was solid enough. I think Will needed a lesson that could make it a more solid impression that he would behave better in the future.
There should be some consequence for Will at least. Especially as it is a children’s book and children don’t know the difference between right and wrong as much as adults do. If there was a consequence, children would know what Will did was wrong and they should not behave like that.
This is a difficult one as the characters do seem to have depth but I don’t think they really change that much.
Violet is a lonely, 13-year-old child who is manipulated into doing things by her brother, playing games she hates and being tricked into an attic full of bats just to prove to him that she loves him. Alongside this, she has an obsession with the fairies in the books written by her favourite author, Casper Dreams—this obsession leads her to create ragdolls of the fairies to hang in her room.
In this sense, she has depth. However, she does not develop as a character. She stays the same throughout, not sticking up for herself and no motivation in the story that she is in. This can happen when a child is emotionally abused but as this is a children’s book, I feel maybe it is showing the realism of emotional abuse too much.
It is also odd for Wilson as she usually writes strong and stubborn characters born from abuse, abandonment or neglect. In this way, Violet doesn’t grow and appears flat despite having a rounded character at the beginning.
Similarly, Will turns out to be the adopted abusive brother. That is his role and he doesn’t change—or at least, it is not certain the change at the end will last. This makes him an antagonist that does not develop. I also feel iffy about him being the adopted abusive brother. I don’t know…
I don’t think this is the worst book I have ever read. It reads as an old classic in the way of the characters’ simple growth and personality but I don’t think I would give this to a child who is 8 years old. Maybe one who is 14-15.
I feel the plot could have been managed better, with something happening to add the focus onto Violet and Will. I feel their characters were too flat and could have been fleshed out a bit.
Because the characters fell flat, I feel the plot did also. If it was different, I think the topic could have been handled better and more suited to children.
It’s not a bad read but I don’t think it is one of her best books. I just feel nothing significant happened or changed except Violet got to meet her favourite author and discover that she had a talent with ragdoll making. I mean did anything really change at the end?
Very unusual for Jacqueline Wilson.
Thanks for Reading
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have, why not read some other book reviews. There are plenty on here: Blame and The selection, just to name a few. And please do follow me on here, Facebook or Twitter.