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Eleven year-old Katy Carr is a tomboy who, despite her best intentions, is always getting into trouble. Lively and adventurous, Katy is very much the leader of her five younger brothers and sisters until an accident damages her spine and she finds herself confined to a wheelchair. Suddenly Katy's life is turned upside down and she has to learn the most basic things all over again, to redefine her role in the family, and find a new meaning in life.

Katy by Jacqueline Wilson

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Z J Cookson
Reviewed by Z J Cookson
Summary: After a slow start this is a powerful and compelling read. Likely to be a hit with Jacqueline Wilson's loyal fans, those new to her writing might be better starting with one of her other books.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: July 2015
Publisher: Puffin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0141353968

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Based on the nineteenth century classic What Kay Did, Jacqueline Wilson deliberately tried to mirror a lot of the adventures in the original book up until Katy's accident. Personally I can't help wishing that she had chosen to use much less of the original story. While the whole Carr family are described with Jacqueline Wilson's usual skill (most notably the two older girls – Katy and Clover – and their best friend Cecy), the first half of the book lacks the page turning storyline of her other books.

From the accident onwards the story deliberately deviates from the original book and it is here that the story really takes off. Indeed it is almost a different book becoming compelling and difficult to put down. (I can't do justice to the review without giving away some of the plot so stop reading here if you don't want to know what happens.)

Through Katy's eyes we learn what it's like to suffer a spinal injury and the life-changing consequences of such an accident. The scenes in the hospital, including the characterisation of the other children in the spinal unit, are particularly poignant. By this point in the book we have developed a strong identification with Katy and can easily understand her frustration and despair. We also feel for Katy's parents. Her dad feels powerless to help despite his training as a doctor while it is on step-mum, Izzie, that the burden of Katy's care now falls (a particular challenge given she and Katy have never got along).

Jacqueline Wilson weaves a powerful narrative that addresses, without preaching, important issues around how people with disabilities are treated. I was pleased she rejected the original book's storyline where Katy learns to walk again. Instead, we have a real character who has to learn to cope and make the best of her circumstances. Katy is no saint but she is strong and determined to stand up for herself even when this means facing shock and ridicule when she returns to mainstream school. The ending has a powerful message of hope. Not only does Katy rebuild her life but the experience enables her to mend her relationship with her step-mum and step-sister. Katy may not walk again but she has potential to achieve her dreams despite her disability.

Overall this book is worth reading for the powerful and compelling second half. I'm confident it will be a hit with Jacqueline Wilson's loyal fans but those new to her writing would probably be better starting with one of her other books. Try Opal Plumstead or My Sister Jodie.

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