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Love Lessons by Jacqueline Wilson

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Love Lessons was a very compelling read – but not for the central teacher-pupil relationship.

What was fascinating was the bizarre nature of the family: downtrodden mother, eccentric father, two girls segregated and sheltered from the world and other children to some considerable extent.

The mother’s transformation from a subservient, unquestioning wife (who seemed like she had borderline learning difficulties) into an assertive and more capable woman was something I would have liked more of. The little sister was also a really engaging character.

The father is of course awful but he is very well written. It’s a highly convincing portrait of someone who is eccentric to the point of mild insanity, who loves his children yet is emotionally abusive and parentally negligent to them.

The protagonist, Prue, was both unlikeable and implausible in terms of her relationship with her teacher. He did not seem attractive enough to appeal to such a young and sheltered girl – particularly so quickly – and he did not seem the type of man to dally with a pupil, let alone one so incredibly underage.

Plus in her bizarre homemade frocks Prue probably looked even more childlike. She’s constantly described as “skinny” – skinny 14-year-olds tend to look their age. Prue is no Courtney Stodden/Mandy Smith. So imagining this 30-something-man falling romantically for a skinny, immature, self-centred 14-year-old wearing home made children’s clothes – it didn’t wash for me.

It was also implausible that the young dyslexic boy/school heartthrob would have pursued the freakish new girl, school dynamics simply don’t work like that beyond Hollywood high school movies. Also implausible that he wouldn’t have been getting better remedial help for his low literacy.

And the ending was absolutely implausible: pupils simply don’t get expelled for having crushes on teachers. Even had the school suspected anything, the police would have been called in given her age, the teacher would have been suspended pending an inquiry, and Prue would have been treated as the victim with support from social services. Instead, Prue gets expelled/excluded. It’s also highly implausible that the school weren’t liaising in some way with social services over this family.

So I found myself caring less about what happened to them but rejoicing in the transformation of her mother and sister, and what the family business might be like going forward. I would actually love a sequel just based around family life, perhaps with the sister as the protagonist.