Lily Alone: A tale of child neglect

Lily Alone by Jacqueline Wilson is an intriguing, fast-paced children’s book which focuses on child neglect and the role of the mother and the eldest child within a family. While I would not recommend this as an audiobook, as Wilson’s narrative is a whiny annoying voice which I didn’t feel fit with the eponymous character’s personality, the book is important for children who have had similar experiences and children generally to learn to understand what other people their age can go through.

The story
Lily just wants to be alone. Her big family with her younger brother and two younger sisters is chaotic and she is rather tired of never having time for herself. Her mother is flighty, often going out and leaving her in charge. When her mum goes on holiday with a new boyfriend and fails to organise child care for the week, Lily just wants to prove that she is mature enough to handle her siblings and be the best ‘Lilymum’ for them. How crazy can things get?

What I thought…
Lily Alone is a rather bleak narrative, exploring the reality of what would happen if young children were left in charge of themselves. It’s enjoyable to read, and I liked the way that Lily managed her own feelings throughout. The kids were very realistic and I found that the plot followed through right down to the adult characters the children run into and the way they show concern but still don’t get properly involved where they don’t have to.
I will say that I was in two minds about Lily’s teacher. Since her friends think that he’s weird, but she says that she has a special connection with him through art, I felt some strange vibes coming from him. This was heightened by him coming around to their house instead of calling social services first. I think that could be my cynicism as a young adult coming through, as I can’t be sure how I would respond in that situation.
All throughout, I enjoyed the language; obviously Jacqueline Wilson writes children from different backgrounds very well. These children are very good at making their own fun and are highly creative, which makes looking after them a little hectic but easier, perhaps, than looking after a well cared for child who has been abandoned. This made me consider the world from this perspective and I appreciated the way it was written.

Overall, this is a 4* read for me. Children will love this, and parents will probably appreciate one of the messages of this book, which is to make the best of what you have and be satisfied with having parents who care enough to stick around and love you unconditionally, even if they can’t always buy you everything you want. I would recommend reading this physically, as opposed to listening to the audio version, and think that most children and parents would benefit from reading this book, although parents will hate the mother.

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