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Opal Plumstead
by Jacqueline Wilson (Random House, $34.99)
Reviewed by Sophie Robinson

9780857531100-1-edition.default.original-1Do you like lollies? Opal Plumstead certainly did… until she was forced to work in a lolly factory. You see, Opal’s father wants to be an author. He writes a manuscript and sends it off to the publishers, who say they are interested in perhaps accepting his book. He thinks the publishers will say yes, and pay him lots of money, so he takes the family out to celebrate. They spend a lot of money celebrating … so when the publisher says ‘no’ to the manuscript, Opal’s father has a big pile of bills to somehow pay back. In desperation he steals from his employer to pay the outstanding bills, but gets caught out.

Opal then has to leave her posh school, and her scholarship, to work in the Fairy Glenn Sweet Factory, making fondant moulds. Opal’s older sister has an apprenticeship at a hat shop, and offers to leave to find a higher-paying job to support the family, but her mother won’t let her. So it’s all up to Opal. The story follows Opal as she grows into a young woman starting out in the world.

Jacqueline Wilson’s Opal character is smart, and a little shy, ‘although I’m little, I’m also fiery!’ She has strong opinions and is not afraid to voice them. She discovers the suffragette movement and identifies strongly with the cause, ‘[her employer] is a suffragette – and I’m going to be [a suffragette] too.’

The story is set in England and begins just before World War I. The ending is unique because it finishes in three stages – you can choose where you want the story to finish. But I just had to keep reading past the first two endings to see what the third ending was! This story shows how people were trapped in a class system, and how hard it was to break out of that.

Jacqueline Wilson is a very popular author based in the U.K. She’s won lots of awards such as the British Children’s Book of the year, and she has been awarded an OBE as well.

I liked this book… a lot! I think it’s definitely one of Jacqueline Wilson’s best so far.