JELLY by Jo Cotterill


Age Range: 10 - 13
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Eleven-year-old Angelica hides her embarrassment about her size until a caring adult encourages her to express her thoughts and emotions freely.

Angelica, called Jelly, is the class clown. Known for doing impressions, she laughs off the occasional unkind remark from a classmate, then writes brief poems in her journal detailing the pain she feels. Although she talks about typical adolescent concerns with best friends Kayma and Sanvi, they, like her mother, are unaware of her inner turmoil. After a breakup with her current boyfriend, Jelly’s mom connects with Lennon, a guitar-playing songwriter. It’s Lennon who winds up being Jelly’s (somewhat unlikely) confidant and the one who gives her the confidence to share her innermost thoughts with family and friends. British author Cotterill packs a lot into this import. Jelly’s grandfather is a bully with old-fashioned (racist and misogynistic) values, and her aunt is coping with depression. Although it’s delicately handled, Jelly is well aware of her single mom’s sexual activity, a realistic touch that some may find disquieting. Jelly’s first-person narration is appropriately self-centered but also results in most characters appearing somewhat one-dimensional. Some Briticisms have been altered but others remain, creating a slightly off-kilter tone at times. Jelly, her family, and Lennon are white; Kayma and Sanvi are black and Indian, respectively; other racial and/or ethnic diversity is implied by some names but not explicitly acknowledged.

A sympathetic portrayal of adolescent angst with a feel-good—if not entirely convincing—resolution. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-4998-1006-6
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Little Bee
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2019