Kiss by Jacqueline Wilson explores a teenage relationship between two childhood friends, Carl and Sylvie, both 16. Sylvie, a sweet, rather naïve girl, has strong feelings for Carl and wants to be more than friends; Carl is more interested in his glass figurine collection and interior decoration. He’s also kind and polite and his bedroom is pristine. Get the picture? Well, Sylvie doesn’t!
Written in Wilson’s customary friendly, inclusive style, this book sucks you in and doesn’t let go. The adult characters, especially Sylvie’s mum who has just met a new man on the internet, are extremely well drawn. When Carl’s mum, Jules, discovers Carl is gay, she says, ‘I thought you might be … You’re my Carl and I love you just the way you are.’ Jules goes on to explain that his father might find it more difficult to accept. All very PC but in Wilson’s experienced hands it does ring true.
Wilson’s prose in Kiss is bright, punchy, direct and easy to read. Her use of language has developed over the years, but she never takes her eye off her audience. Characters ‘lurk’, ‘chuckle’ and ‘mess around’. Her characters have ‘deep fruity voices’; they ‘toss’ their curls and ‘exchange quick glances’. Now and again she throws in references to Munch or other artists. Never does she talk down to her readers.
When it comes to good, solid writing, and emotionally honest yet moral books, Wilson is your only woman.