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Literature / Little Darlings (Literature)

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Little Darlings is a 2010 children's novel by Jacqueline Wilson, following the story of two girls, Destiny Williams and Sunset Kilman. Destiny lives on a rundown estate with her struggling, overworked mother and has a secret: she's actually the daughter of famous rock star Danny Kilman. The only problem is that he has no idea she exists. Sunset is the daughter of Danny and his model wife Suzy, but although she lives a life of luxury and fame, she is lonely and miserable, lacking real friends, constantly being told what to wear and how to behave and caught in the middle of her parents' dysfunctional marriage - all of which is scrutinised by the media. However, when the two girls meet one day, it might just change both their lives forever.

Not to be confused with the 1980 film Little Darlings.

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Contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: One could make a case for Danny and Suzy, especially towards poor Sunset. Whilst they’re both neglectful, Suzy is more blatantly emotionally/verbally abusive towards Sunset and even slaps her. They both also spoil their other kids rotten and don’t really instil boundaries.
  • Adult Fear:
    • It turns out that the reason Kate is so obsessed with Destiny getting to know Danny is because she has been getting seriously ill, at one point even collapsing, and she fears she could die and leave Destiny alone with no one to look after her.
    • Whilst hitchhiking their way home, a truck-driver tries to assault Destiny and her mother, forcing them to fight him off and make a run for it.
    • Sunset and her siblings being left to fend for themselves for a week or more, due to the staff quitting and their mother spending all her time drinking, hungover or partying.
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  • Aerith and Bob: Danny and Suzy's kids are called Sunset, Sweetie and Ace. Justified, in that they're celebrities, so weird names are to be expected.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Between Danny, who's nearly fifty, and Lizzi, who is in her twenties.
  • Alliterative Name: Suzy's name before she got married was Suzy Swinger.
  • Aloof Darkhaired Girl: Destiny has dark hair and can be somewhat asocial and snarky, not making friends easily, though she is very friendly to Sunset and eventually warms up to Jack, both of whom see her as cool and admirable.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Sweetie and Ace to Sunset at times.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Suzy and Danny's marriage becomes increasingly dysfunctional, with their kids caught in the middle. Danny eventually leaves Suzy, though he comes back in the end. It's unclear if they'll last.
  • Bad Boss: Suzy and Danny to all their staff, though especially their long-suffering nanny Claudia.
  • Berserk Button:
    • For Suzy, seeing Danny talking to/hanging around other women and bringing up the possibility that Danny is Destiny's father.
    • For Destiny, insulting her mother.
  • Big Fancy House: The Kilmans' mansion in Robin Hill. Although it starts to look a lot less glamorous after all the staff quit and Sunset’s left in charge.
  • Big Sister Instinct: When she sees Sweetie and Ace being bullied by some other kids in a playground, Sunset takes a page out of Destiny's book and stands up to them, threatening to knock the kids off the swing if they won’t let them play.
  • Bittersweet Ending: For both girls.
    • Destiny does get to meet her father, but she's fully aware that the meeting is basically a cynical public relations exercise on his part - she doesn't mind because she at least gets a chance to sing and have a relationship with her half-sister Sunset.
    • Sunset is actually still stuck with her dysfunctional family situation, but mentally matures a lot, becomes better at standing up for herself and is reunited with Destiny.
  • Birds of a Feather: Sunset and Destiny are drawn together due to both having no friends, having to shoulder a lot of responsibility at a young age and wishing to have more control over their own lives. To a lesser extent, Jack and Destiny, who bond over the talent show and living on a crappy estate.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break:
    • Destiny's birthday proves to be rather eventful, with she and her mother trekking to Robin Hill in the middle of the night to try and meet up with Danny, getting kicked out by security guards and nearly arrested, having to walk/hitchhike their way home in the dark due to missing their train and nearly getting attacked by a creepy truck driver.
    • Sweetie's birthday party is one disaster after another. Suzy and Danny get into a huge fight, culminating in Danny moving out.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Sweetie. She's only six, but already acts like a mini diva, knows how to use her cuteness to get her own way and thinks she's the centre of the universe. Her parents, particularly her mother, do not help her attitude.
  • British Rockstar: Danny Kilman is one of the worst examples of this trope through and through (though tamer than some examples due the book being aimed at kids).
  • Broken Pedestal: Destiny gets a bit of this towards Danny, due to realising he doesn't seem to care about her and her mother in the slightest.
  • Butt-Monkey: Claudia, the Kilmans' nanny. No one in the house treats her with any respect but Sunset and she is at her wits end trying to cope with Sweetie and Ace (and their parents). She eventually gets sick of this and quits.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: After taking a lifetime of verbal abuse from Suzy, Sunset eventually snaps at her. It's justified, since Sunset is the one trying to hold things together while Suzy is letting the household fall apart and being too emotional to look after her kids, despite chastising Danny for not taking proper care of the children either.
  • Celeb Crush: Kate has a huge one on Danny Kilman. She claims that her daughter is the product of a short-lived relationship with Danny, although it's left somewhat ambiguous as to how true this is.
  • Character Development: Sunset becomes more mature over the course of the novel. For example, when she catches her siblings playing with her dollhouse, rather than getting angry as she would’ve done before, she leaves them be and even joins in. She also develops better self-confidence and starts standing up for herself and her siblings.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The DVD of Destiny performing at her school talent show, which she gives to Sunset. In the end, Sunset shows it to her dad, his manager Rose-May and a producer, Debs, both providing strong proof that Destiny may be Danny's real daughter due to the resemblance between them, and also giving Debs the idea of featuring Destiny in a reality show about the Kilmans, finally allowing Destiny to meet her dad and be reunited with Sunset.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Lizzi, the actress who was featured in the Milky Star film with Danny, who Sunset also sees him speaking with at the premiere. Danny eventually starts an affair with her and even leaves Suzy for her.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Suzy towards Danny, though considering he cheats on her, it's not entirely unreasonable.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: The Kilmans engage in this, especially for Sweetie's sickeningly over-the-top birthday party. In sharp contrast, the Williams' are so poor Destiny gets birthday bread (coated with maple syrup with candles stuck in it) instead of a cake.
  • Crack Defeat: In the penultimate performance of the talent show before the whole school Destiny comes second to last, despite being a very talented singer and there being far worse acts. It's because the show is being judged by her peers, who of course vote for their friends rather than the genuinely good acts – due to being the new girl, Destiny doesn't yet belong to any particular clique or gang and so is unfairly scored low. However during the evening performance, which is judged by the teachers and so is run more fairly, Destiny comes first place.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Sunset and Destiny both seem to like wearing black a lot, but they're both very nice kids.
  • Deadpan Snarker / First-Person Smartass: Destiny. Sunset has her moments too, though she's not as sarcastic as Destiny.
  • Disappeared Dad: Destiny's dad. Justified in that he was unaware she even existed.
  • Domestic Abuse: At one point, Sunset overhears someone getting slapped whilst her parents are arguing, though she isn't sure who's slapping who, even stating that they could be slapping each other.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Suzy does this a lot, especially after Danny leaves her.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Kilmans are a classic dysfunctional celebrity family, which of course the media have a field day with.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Destiny wins first place in the talent show, is finally acknowledged by Danny and will probably have a better life. Better yet, she and Sunset finally get to meet again and so no matter what happens, they'll always have each other.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Kate Williams. She has dark hair, very pale skin and is very skinny with wide, staring eyes. She's actually a rather nice person though and as it turns out, her strange appearance is due to a thyroid problem.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Sunset regards her name as this. Downplayed with Destiny’s name. She herself doesn’t seem to mind it that much (she was named after an old Danny Kilman song, which her mother believes he wrote for her) and she gets defensive if people make fun of it.
  • The Fashionista: Suzy and Sweetie.
  • Fashion Model: Suzy's claim-to-fame, though she's mostly given it up after marrying Danny.
  • Fat Bitch: Louella, Kate's co-worker, can come across as one. She doesn't seem to be intentionally malicious, but is very condescending and full of herself and has no idea what her supposedly perfect kids get up to behind her back.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Suzy and Danny reportedly married after a "whirlwind romance". It can’t have been more than a few months, as Kate mentions one of the reasons she didn't tell Danny about her being pregnant was because she didn't want to ruin his new marriage. It shows.
  • The Gift: Destiny has never received formal vocal training, but is naturally a very gifted singer, very possibly taking after Danny in this regard. Sunset, ironically, can't sing well at all, though she does seem to be developing a knack for song-writing.
  • Gilded Cage: Sunset seems to view her celebrity lifestyle as this. She has material goods galore, but no privacy, little freedom and receives no real love and emotional support from her family.
  • Glory Days: Danny was a big star back in the 80's/90's, but hasn't had a hit in years and is desperate to recapture his former fame.
  • Good Parents: Kate to Destiny for the most part (her obsession with Danny aside).
  • Goth: Danny went through a goth phase in the early years of his career and still has elements of this style. Sunset later starts dressing in a somewhat gothic style, including wearing all-black and fishnet gloves, as well as writing angsty poetry.
  • Happy Marriage Charade: Suzy and Danny are putting up one for much of the novel.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Despite practising a lot and putting a lot of effort into their performances, Destiny and several other talent acts get screwed over in the first live performance of 'Bilefield's Got Talent', due to the judges voting based on their friend groups rather than actual talent. Fortunately, it's averted during the grand final, which is judged by the teachers.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Destiny says this about Jack near the end, after they become friends. It's possible they do have a bit of a crush on each other, though seeing as they're kids, it isn't a serious one.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Destiny is very fond of a leather jacket she's seen Sunset wearing. Sunset ends up gifting it to Destiny as she no longer wears it, thrilling her to bits. She ends up wearing it to the live performance of the school talent show, so it's almost like Sunset is there in spirit. It also adds to her cool, Danny Kilman-inspired look for the performance (as she is singing a Danny Kilman song, after all).
  • Heroic BSoD: Destiny has a bit of one after she places second to bottom in the penultimate performance of the talent show, refusing to perform in the final show that evening and even believing she might actually be a bad singer. She changes her mind, however, when she realises her mother has taken time off work to come see her perform and decides to sing for her.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Sunset and Destiny only meet once, but they bond almost instantly and frequently write to each other over the course of the story. They quickly become one of the most important people in each other's lives and confide in each other about everything. Even if they can't be certain they're biological sisters, they still act like it regardless.
  • Humble Goal: Kate genuinely isn't interested in Danny’s money or fame; she just wants Destiny to have her father in her life and be provided for.
  • Iconic Item: Danny is known for wearing bandanas as part of his signature look (which also serve the more practical purpose of hiding his bald spots now he's getting on in years). In the early years of his career, he was associated with fish-net gloves as well.
  • Ill Girl: As it turns out, Kate, who gets progressively more ill throughout the story, even collapsing near the end of the novel. Luckily, in the end she finds out what's wrong with her and is able to get it treated relatively easily.
  • Informed Ability: Danny and particularly Destiny are both said to be very talented singers. Danny's signature song "Always and Forever" is a classic rock anthem and his more obscure song "Destiny" is also said to be quite good and difficult to sing a cappella, though Destiny manages it very well.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: An odd example. It's Destiny's mum who's the innocent one. She met Danny Kilman, the famous rock star she had a crush on, at one of his gigs when she was eighteen, leading to Destiny's conception. Eleven years later she still thinks it was a serious, albeit brief, relationship; despite all evidence pointing to it being a one-night stand.
  • Ironic Name: Destiny states that Angel should actually be called 'Devil'.
  • It's All About Me: Suzy and Danny all the way. Sweetie as well, though she occasionally shows more care and concern towards Sunset.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Kate claims she never told Danny about Destiny because soon after she found out she was pregnant, he married Suzy, who soon got pregnant with Sunset, and she didn’t want to ruin his marriage or intrude on his new family.
  • Jerkass: Both Suzy and Danny can be at this times, mostly because of how self-centred they are. Angel, Destiny's bitchy classmate, counts too.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Suzy maybe a complete cow about it and the reader knows that Destiny and Kate are harmless, but she's got a point about Sunset inviting random people she only just met into their property.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The kids at Destiny's school can be, especially when they deliberately score kids they don't like low during the talent show whilst scoring their friends higher including newcomer Destiny, who despite singing her heart out, is placed second to last. Sunset is also picked on by some of the girls in school, who tease her for being quiet and mockingly call her 'Wonky Gob' because of her teeth.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Sunset. She feels ignored or out of place amongst her family, is clearly The Un-Favourite and doesn't fit in at school either.
  • Long-Lost Relative: One of the plot points is Destiny being the long-lost daughter of Danny and half-sister to Sunset and her siblings. In the end, Sunset finally convinces Danny and the others that Destiny really is his daughter and they plan to base a reality show around it. That being said, there's some debate as to whether Destiny truly is Danny's child (see Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe).
  • Loving a Shadow: Destiny's mother didn't really know the father of her daughter, and was caught up in the fantasy she associated with his being a rock star.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe / The Un-Reveal: It's never actually confirmed if Destiny is Danny's daughter. Arguments for: she bears a resemblance to Danny and Sunset, is a talented singer like him and her mother hasn't much reason to lie seeing as she isn't interested in extorting money. Arguments against: Kate is more than a little obsessed with Danny, Danny has no memory of Kate (though considering how self-absorbed he is, this isn't all that surprising) and Kate is desperate to find someone to look after her daughter in case something happens to her.
  • Mama Bear: When a creepy truck driver they hitchhike with tries to grab Destiny, her mother punches him "where it hurts" to protect her.
  • Manchild: Both Suzy and Danny act more like spoilt children than adults.
  • Only Sane Man: Sunset, after her life goes to crap, is the only one acting remotely sensible and rational. Her father's jetting off with a younger woman and acting like everything's fine, her mother’s having a drunken breakdown and her siblings are too young to take responsibility or even understand what's happening.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Danny telling Sunset how good she looks in her new outfit – which she chose for herself rather than it being an outfit her mother forced her to wear.
    • Suzy making an effort to get out of bed, dressing herself up in pretty clothes and joining in her children's party, after Danny leaves them.
  • Promoted to Parent: Sunset briefly, after Danny leaves, Suzy has a breakdown and their nanny quits.
  • Rags to Riches: Suzy used to live on a council estate and barely had enough money to buy chips, before making it big as a model. She hates being reminded of this. In the end, this is implied to be the case for Destiny after she finally gets to meet Danny.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mr Roberts, Destiny's new teacher at Bilefield Primary.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Destiny has a bit of a chip on her shoulder and is somewhat defiant towards authority figures.
  • Recycled Premise:
    • The plot and writing style (alternating between the POV of the two protagonists) is similar in many ways to an earlier Jacqueline Wilson novel, Secrets. In fact, Destiny and Sunset could easily be Expies of Treasure and India, respectively (down to the unusual names). Some notable differences include the two girls in Little Darlings being sisters than simply close friends, the wealthier of the two girls being a celebrity and Destiny's mother is much nicer than Treasure's. Secrets, being aimed at older readers, also features more mature content.
    • Destiny's plot-line and character also bears several similarities to The Lottie Project and it's protagonist Charlie, such as being raised by a single mother who works multiple jobs and struggles to make ends meet, living in a small and rundown house and not getting much for her birthday, as well as winning a prize for a school-related project and befriending a boy she was previously hostile towards.
  • Rich Bitch: Suzy and Lizzi.
  • Rotating Narrator: Each chapter alternates between the perspective of Destiny and Sunset.
  • Ship Tease: A little bit between Destiny and Jack, though she insists they're Just Friends. It's also not particularly serious, given they’re both only eleven.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Sunset isn't much like Sweetie and Ace in either appearance or personality, especially compared to the former. Sweetie is an adorable blonde, who loves being the centre of attention, is a bit of a brat and very girly and materialistic, whilst Sunset is plainer, with dark hair, and much more quiet and bookish.
  • Sore Loser: Angel after Destiny beats her in the grand final.
  • Spoiled Brat: Sweetie and to a lesser extent Ace, although considering the way they're being raised, it's not all that surprising.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Sunset has shades of this. Although she's a celebrity child, she's usually very humble and kind and is never stuck-up or shallow. It's implied part of it is because she's The Un-Favourite in her family and so isn't as doted on as her siblings.
  • Stage Mom: Suzy has shades of this, trying to push Sweetie into becoming a child performer. It only lasts about five minutes though, before Sweetie has a meltdown in front of a producer when her tooth falls out.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Sunset has quite a strong resemblance to her father, having a big nose, long, messy dark hair and crooked teeth. Destiny also has dark hair and crooked teeth, and a great singing voice like Danny. Though in the latter's case, this could be a coincidence, as it's never confirmed if she is Danny’s daughter.
  • Struggling Single Mother: Kate. She got pregnant at 18, the father of her child isn't around and didn't even know she was pregnant, her own mother was very unsupportive and she has to work multiple jobs – including cleaning and bartending – to make ends meet. She only had one other relationship with a guy named Steve, who was well-off and provided for her and Destiny, but he eventually became abusive towards them, prompting them to flee and live in a shelter until they could get a new flat. As if that weren't bad enough, Kate also starts having health problems, which she fears are serious enough that she won't be able to care for her daughter, though fortunately, it turns out to be a thyroid problem which is easily treated with the right medication.
  • Tabloid Melodrama: Sunset and her family are often subject to this. It doesn't help that their personal lives really are quite dysfunctional, but the media twisting or exaggerating everything makes it worse.
  • Talent Contest: All the kids in Destiny's class have to take part in an upcoming talent show at their school. Destiny decides to sing an a capella version of her namesake song "Destiny" and actually starts to become quite emotionally invested in the show, with it forming the main climax of her story. The show also forms a way to finally introduce her to Danny, by way of a DVD of her performance she sent to Sunset.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Kate had Destiny when she was eighteen.
  • Tomboy: Destiny. She's street-smart, tough, good at climbing, usually wears jeans and t-shirts and can be quite fierce, stating she "can fight and be really mouthy if I want to".
  • True Art Is Angsty: In-Universe, Sunset's songs and poems are rather angsty, but also praised for their creativity.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Sunset and Destiny’s stories are both equally important yet separate, and occasionally interlock, especially at the beginning and end.
  • The Un-Favourite: Sunset, because she’s not "little and blonde and cute" like her siblings. Her father at one point openly wishes she were more like Sweetie.
  • We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: In-Universe example. Danny has a cameo appearance in the popular film Milky Star about an upcoming boy band to try and stay relevant…unfortunately, it has the opposite effect, with Danny being mocked by the tabloids as a desperate has-been.
  • White Sheep: Sunset is easily the most well-adjusted and mature member of her family, who hasn't let fame go to her head.
  • Wicked Stepfather / Wicked Stepmother:
    • Destiny mentions that her mother was once in a relationship with a well-off man who promised to look after them, but eventually turned violent and controlling towards them.
    • Late in the novel, Sunset and her siblings clearly view Danny’s new girlfriend Lizzi as this, although she’s not officially their stepmother and he leaves her by the end
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Destiny and Kate live on the rundown, rather appropriately-named Bilefield Estate in Manchester. It's actually supposed to be one of the better council estates in the area, with less druggies and police call-outs.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Danny cheats on Suzy with Lizzi, a much younger actress. He gets back with Suzy in the end, though it's not clear if he actually still loves her or if it's just for the upcoming reality show about him and his family.
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