This was the first book I read for my reading challenge in January, where the theme was characters with a disability. Full disclosure, I pictured this one to be a sweet read about a girl with Down syndrome who goes on an adventure to find her boyfriend.
Nope. This book was so much more than that and it dived a lot deeper than I originally anticipated.
Parts of it showed how kind and compassionate humans can be, which made my heart swell in my chest. Other parts covered dark themes that, at times, were distressing and difficult to digest.
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Genre: Young adult
Published on: 30 August 2018
Pages: 336 (paperback)
Published by: Usborne Publishing Ltd
Rosie and Jack; two peas in a pod
Rose and Jack were meant to be. He makes the sun shine in her head and she calms his ‘angry’ . But sometimes, Jack’s ‘angry’ takes makes him do things he can’t control. After an incident at school, Jack is sent to Brighton and Rose is left alone. With no communication, she fears the worst, that Jack doesn’t love her anymore. Until she finds a pile of postcards from Jack that her father has hidden, hoping this will be the end to the relationship. With no other option, Rose secretly leaves for Brighton, desperate to bring Jack home. But the journey is far from smooth, and Rose meets some nice and some not so nice people who will do everything they can to stop her from getting to Jack.
An insight into the underbelly of London
Dropping a tiny spoiler here so jump to the next section if you don’t want to know what happens to Rose in London.
This isn’t a huge spoiler, more just it loses the shock factor if you know it’s coming. In London, Rose is approached by a man who says he can help her find Jack. Vulnerable and naïve, she is taken under his wing and finds herself in a trafficking home with other women (mostly underage).
Some people have called this out to be unrealistic but having learned about CSE (child-sexual exploitation) in a previous job, I can tell you that it’s much more common than people realise. It’s a theme that I’m very interested in exploring, particularly in novels as I feel like it get’s much less coverage than it should. It’s so prevalent, yet barely talked about in fiction or in reality. Everything that Rose, Lisette, and Courtney experienced is a reflection of real-life for many underage girls who maybe don’t fit in at home or are brainwashed by exploiters showering them with gifts and attention. It’s so easy to fall into the trap, and I thought the author explored this really really well.
A well-rounded novel
Mel Darbon did a great job of injecting light-heartedness and acts of kindness into the story to counter the darker, more challenging themes without undermining them. There was hope throughout Rose’s difficult journey, and I wanted her to reach Jack so badly so they could reunite.
Rose’s Down syndrome made many people doubt her ability to be in-de-pen-dent but her unwavering strength and love for Jack kept her fighting. She was wonderfully developed and I gained a real insight into what it must be like for people with disabilities who know they are capable of more than people assume/give them credit for. Rose was often treated like a baby, although you could tell this was because her parents loved her and wanted to protect her. But I felt her anguish and the unfairness that she and Jack were unable to have the privacy they craved.
Perfect for older Jacqueline Wilson readers
Casting my mind way back to my childhood (who am I kidding, I love reading kids’ books as an adult), Rosie Loves Jack reminded me of a Jacqueline Wilson novel but for older readers. It was easy to get invested in the story and had a good flow, while still covering some challenging and difficult themes. Great for adults too, of course, and one I will definitely be recommending.