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Literature / Katy

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Katy is a modern retelling of What Katy Did by Jacqueline Wilson.

Katy is the eldest of of six siblings, and struggles to uphold her position as a responsible big sister, given her reckless and adventurous nature. She's constantly getting into trouble, even if she genuinely has good intentions, and often finds herself at odds with her 'wicked' step-mother, Izzie.

Then Katy falls off a rope swing and breaks her spine, leaving her paralysed from the waist down. Suddenly she can no longer be the big sister she wants to be to her siblings, she has to be cared for by the step-mother she detests so much, and she can no longer imagine her fabulous future while she's stuck in a wheelchair.

Katy and What Katy Did share the same main cast of characters, though with some notable differences, follow a similar storyline, and both involve Katy learning how to adjust to the new direction that her life has gone in.

A three-part television series based on Katy was shown on CBBC in March 2018.

This book provides example of:

  • Age-Gap Romance: Alistair is around his 50s and Izzie is in her early-mid 30s. It's also mentioned that Katy and Clover's mother was much younger than Alistair.
  • Alliterative Name: Clover Carr.
  • Alpha Bitch: Eva Jenkins.
  • Always Identical Twins: Averted, Jonnie is described as being very thin and somewhat of a tomboy, while Dorry is chubby and enjoys cooking.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
    • Elsie is the biggest offender; she constantly tells on her other siblings, especially Katy, and often pretends to be hurt just to get her into trouble. She even whines about being left out of Katy, Cecy and Clover's games, and then complains because she doesn't like doing whatever it is that they're doing. She does improve after Katy's accident.
    • Jonnie and Dorry have a habit of attempting to speak in-sync with one another.
  • Berserk Button: Don't refer to Izzie as Katy's mother. Though she seems to warm up to the idea by the end of the book.
  • Big Sister Instinct: While Katy doesn't fawn over every child that she meets, like the original!Katy did, she is very protective of her younger siblings; even Elsie.
  • Big Eater: Dorry. His parents are even worried that he's getting chubby.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Katy doesn't recover the use of her legs again, and most likely never will, but she's optimistic about her future.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Dorry and Jonnie are very close to one another.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin':
    • Katy's entire life seems to revolve around this. Even when she genuinely tries, Katy somehow manages to cause nothing but trouble. The prime example of this is her accident. Yes, she did take a foolish risk by making a rope swing when she didn't know how to secure it properly, resulting in it coming undone when she tried to use it, but it seems hardly fair that she ends up paralysed for life because of it. Helen even lampshades this by mentioning that most children would have only broken an arm or a leg.
    • In similar circumstances, Dexter was permanently paralysed after he impulsively accepted a dare to joy-ride on a stolen motorbike. One of the hospital nurses mentions it's unlikely the police will press charges against him, as they think he's been punished enough.
  • Cool Big Sis: How Katy's siblings see her.
  • Cool Teacher: Miss Lambert (though she's actually a school librarian), Mr Myers.
  • Cosmetic Catastrophe: Katy has two - first, she tries dressing up in Izzie's clothes and wearing her makeup, but ends up ruining them. Later, her attempts to dress up and do her hair nicely in order to impress Imogen don't go quite as Katy planned.
  • Cute Bruiser: Jonnie
  • Daddy's Girl: Katy and Clover are this towards Dr Carr, understandably so given that their mother died when they were young.
  • Devil in Plain Sight:
    • Eva gets away with being awful to Katy because she's small and pretty, and uses that to disguise her true nature.
    • Elsie to some extent; she clearly acts up just to get Katy into trouble, and her overprotective mother falls for it. However Izzie does realise what Elsie is up to eventually, and Elsie herself becomes closer to Katy.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Katy claims that this is why Jonnie and Dorry, whose birth names are Johanna (with a silent H) and Dorian respectively, would rather be known by their nicknames.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Anyone who has heard of What Katy Did knows that Katy will damage her back and end up confined to a wheelchair.
  • Girl Next Door: Cecy.
  • Girl Posse: The mean Eva Jenkins has one.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: Katy pulls this on Eva during a swimming lesson and throws all her clothes in the pool, but has to own up to it when Ryan is mistakenly blamed instead.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Clover is usually perceived as such. Katy's dad sees Izzie this way, although Katy doesn't agree. Eva avoids this trope but knows how to look like she fits it.
  • Height Angst: Katy wishes she was small and delicate, rather than tall and lanky.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: Katy is described as being extremely tall for her age, to the point where she's mistaken for being a few years older than she actually is.
  • I Can't Feel My Legs!: Katy is unable to feel her legs after her accident; this is the first thing that suggests that she is more severely hurt than her doctor originally thought.
  • Imagine the Audience Naked: Katy suggests Elsie imagine her mean teacher in his underwear if she feels intimidated.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged:
    • Deliberately averted when it comes to Katy. Wilson stated that she felt uncomfortable with the idea that being 'good and saintly' could cure physically disabled people, a message that was prominent in older books such as the original What Katy Did, Heidi and The Secret Garden, which is why Katy remains disabled in Katy.
    • Helen is an inspiration, given that she's a renowned academic and writer, but she strictly states that she worked very hard to get where she is in life.
    • A mild example is a girl named Rosemary on Katy's hospital ward. She is much younger than Katy and has far more severe injuries (having become quadriplegic from falling out of a window) but never cries or complains. This makes Katy feel guily and want to try to be more like Rosemary.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dexter is the worst patient on the ward but when Katy is too upset to leave her bed, he wheels himself round to the girls' ward and cheers her and the other girls up by drawing them all pictures.
  • Karma Houdini: The Alpha Bitch's mother complains to the school after Katy accidentally bashes into her daughter with her wheelchair during a PE lesson, claiming Katy is a "safety hazard". The school sides with this mother and Katy's participation in PE is subsequently restricted to sitting in her wheelchair and hitting balls which are thrown to her. There is no mention of the school or the mother being taken to task. Back in reality, a school which made such a discriminatory decision about a disabled pupil would likely be subject to legal action or at least a formal complaint from the pupil's parents or guardians, but the closest the novel gets to this is the scene where Katy tries to confront her headteacher about the way she has been treated, only to be accused of being disruptive and told she will be punished if she persists. Luckily, her PE teacher is sympathetic and, since he can't allow her to take a more active part in his lessons, he suggests she joins a wheelchair basketball team so that she can take part in sport outside school.
  • Lady in Red: Referenced by Izzie who, because of this trope, thinks it would be inappropriate for a girl Katy's age to wear red to a school dance.
  • Lethal Chef: Katy has good intentions, but ultimately gets distracted or overeager which leads to disastrous results.
  • Lies to Children: Dr Carr invokes this when he tells Katy that there is little hope of her ever walking again. However he later admits that he was perhaps a little too blunt.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Jonnie is very much a tomboy who loves doing stunts on her bike and has Spider-Man pyjamas, while Dorry prefers to lead a quieter life, and enjoys cooking and eating.
  • May–December Romance: It's mentioned that Katy's father is much older than both his wives.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Elsie. As in the original book, she doesn't seem to fit in with either the younger or the older children and is always trailing around after Katy and Clover, wanting to play with them.
  • Missing Mom: Katy's mother died while she and Clover were young. It's implied that she died due to complications from cancer.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Wilson has a habit of depicting her characters as writers, though in Katy's case, she was an aspiring writer in the original novel as well.
  • Mythology Gag: When Helen encourages Katy she mentions that she'll be able to travel when she's older. The original Katy from Susan Coolidge's story did in fact travel around Europe when she was an adult.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter:
    • Shortly before her accident, Katy uses a "very rude word" to describe Izzie, who has just punished her for going out alone when she knew she'd been told not to. However, since this is a kids' book, exactly which word she uses is left to the reader's imagination.
    • When a bus driver refuses to accommodate Katy's wheelchair because the designated space is already taken up by families with small children in buggies, Izzie supposedly mutters: "What a whatsit!" Katy then states that Izzie actually said a much ruder word beginning with W.
    • Ditto Katy telling her father to "push off." Only, she says, she didn't say "push."
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Cecy. Only a very few adults call her Caroline.
  • Parental Favoritism:
    • Katy claims that Clover is their father's favourite child, even if he insists he doesn't have a favourite.
    • Izzie appears to favour Elsie over the other children, which is understandable; Elsie is a result of her first marriage, and the only child not related by blood to Dr Carr. Before the twins were born she was also Izzie's only child.
  • Parents as People:
    • Izzie often overreacts to Katy's troublemaking, and will instantly take Elsie's side over hers. This makes it appear as though she is favouring her own flesh and blood over her step-daughter. Izzie even admits she finds it hard trying to play the role of step-mother, and in a moment of anger states that she wishes Katy wasn't her step-daughter. But Izzie does grow to understand Katy a little better, and soon realises that Elsie often acts put upon just to get Katy into trouble.
    • Alistair struggles when it comes to telling Katy the truth about the severity of her injury; initially he comes across as being too blunt, because he knows there is little that can be done for her. However he quickly realises that he should be encouraging her instead.
  • Passionate Sports Girl: Katy. Even after her accident, she remains keen on sport and quickly shows an aptitude for the variation of basketball which Mr Myers has invented. Shortly after, however, an unfortunate incident involving Eva Jenkins leads to her participation in PE being restricted on "health and safety" grounds. Myers then suggests she joins a wheelchair basketball team; she initially dismisses the idea, thinking it will just be "gentle therapy" masquerading as sport, but changes her mind once she has seen a DVD of the Paralympics.
  • Pet the Dog: Katy is asked to pick which angel to put on top of the Christmas tree; Elsie's crappy angel, or Clover's much prettier one. After having picked on Elsie for so long, Katy decides that both angels should go on the tree, just so that Elsie won't be upset.
  • Playing a Tree: Katy was cast as a shepherd's wife in the Navity play, despite wanting to be Mary or the Angel Gabriel, whose job was to sit there and look awed. She puts her heart into the role, but is accused of showing off.
  • Plucky Girl: Katy herself.
  • Potty Failure: While it never happens, Katy is terrified that she'll have an accident; due to her severe injuries, her bladder is weaker than before.
  • Promotion to Parent:
    • Unlike in the original story, Dr. Carr actively discourages this. Katy is encouraged to play and to be a normal child, and due to her reckless nature she isn't trusted to look after her younger siblings on her own. Izzie is the one who takes on the role of step-mother, and manages to handle six children fairly well.
    • Izzie is this in a more meta sense; in the original novel she is Dr Carr's sister who moves in to take care of the children after his wife dies. In Katy, she's Dr Carr's second wife and mother to Elsie, Dorry, Johnnie and Phil.
  • Puppy Love: Between eleven-year-old Ryan and Katy, though they seem comfortable as friends for now.
  • Related Differently in the Adaptation: As noted above, Katy's Aunt Izzie in the original becomes her stepmother.
  • Second Love: Izzie is this for Mr Carr, something that Katy struggles to understand.
  • Secret Diary: A humorous version when Katy reads out Dorry's diary. It's just ramblings about what he ate each day before finally deciding he couldn't be bothered to write in it any more.
  • Shared Universe: Characters visit the Flowerfield Shopping Centre, which has appeared in a number of Jacqueline Wilson's books.
  • Shipper on Deck: Cecy is this for Katy and Ryan.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang:
    • Jonnie and Dorry.
    • Katy and Clover.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the original book, Aunt Izzie falls ill and dies a few years after Katy's accident. The illness is not included in Katy, and her counterpart is still alive at the end of the book. Justified, since death from illness was much more common in the 19th century, and Promotion to Parent is no longer part of Katy's Character Development.
  • Spell My Name With An S: It's Johanna, not Joanna, even if the H is silent.
  • Symbolically Broken Object: Just before her accident, Katy accidentally snaps the chain on the necklace Helen gave her. Towards the end, when a visit from Helen helps restore Katy's hopes for the future, Izzie gets the necklace repaired for her.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Played with; Katy and Clover are extremely close to one another, but they fall into the appropriate categories. Katy is a Bookworm with a temper, and is often described as being tall and gangly. Clover is a sweetheart who has exceptionally beautiful blue eyes. However Clover is implied to be quite smart, and has a habit of being skilled at whatever it is she puts her mind to.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Katy and Ryan, although Ryan points out at the end of the book that it's not such a problem any more since with Katy in a wheelchair it's less apparent that she is so tall.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl:
    • Katy and Clover.
    • Katy and Cecy.
  • Trademark Favourite Food: It's mentioned several times that Katy's favourite dinners are macaroni cheese and fish pie.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: What Alistair and Izzie think of Imogen. Katy, being a child herself, can't quite put her finger on this but does point out that she'd never be allowed to dress like Imogen.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife:
    • Alistair is an ordinary-looking, middle-aged man while Izzie is much younger, and described as beautiful by several characters.
    • Katy mentions that her next-door neighbour, an elderly lady, was much more attractive than her late husband.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Katy claims that Izzie is this, and they do genuinely struggle to see eye to eye with one another. This changes after Katy's accident, where Katy warms up to Izzie considerably, and when Izzie learns to love Katy for who she is.
  • You're Not My Mother: Katy throws this at Izzie almost constantly through the first half of the novel, but slowly comes to appreciate her step-mother after her accident.
  • Zany Scheme: Katy is fond of pulling these, and has the ability to turn what should be a simple task into a zany scheme without fail.