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Literature / Lola Rose

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A 2003 novel by Jacqueline Wilson, aimed at preteens. It follows the story of a young girl named Jayni Fenton who is forced to run away from home with her mother and younger brother to escape her violent father, adopting the name 'Lola Rose' in the process in an attempt to make herself seem more mature and sophisticated. However, as things gradually go From Bad to Worse, Jayni finds herself being forced to act far more grown-up than she's able to cope with.


Contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Jay is verbally abusive (and eventually physically abusive as well) to Jayni. It's strongly implied that Nikki's father was abusive to her too. Nikki can also be somewhat neglectful and borderline verbally abusive, and at one point slaps Jayni, but she's a lot better than Jay.
  • Acrofatic: Auntie Barbara. Justified, in that she takes classes in judo and Thai martial arts.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Being unable to protect your children from being beaten by their father.
    • Having to run away with your children to escape an abusive partner.
    • Dying of a serious illness and leaving your children alone.
    • In one chapter, your little brother/son going missing in a crowded market, with the possibility he's been snatched by a stranger or found by your violent father/partner.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Between Nikki and Jake. Jayni is shocked when she's first introduced to him, due to him being a twenty year old college student and much younger than she expected. She at one point comments to her mother that he's "more my age than your's". Nikki's own age is left somewhat ambiguous, though as she had Jayni when she was seventeen, she's likely in her late 20's.
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  • Age-Inappropriate Dress: At one point, Jayni, who is around ten or eleven, dresses up in some of her mother's clothes and make-up, and actually goes out like that, hoping she looks older. This includes high-heels, a tight T-shirt and a bra (stuffed with tissues), as well as "half of Boots' make-up counter" on her face. She does actually succeed in getting a bit of attention from a few boys, though it doesn't so end well when one boy, Ross, kisses her against her will to show off to his gang. She also gets in trouble with Nikki for wearing her clothes without her permission.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Deconstructed. Jay, a former rock band member and the "toughest man on the estate" is a violent and domineering Jerkass who beats his wife. Later, Jayni seems attracted to Ross, the leader of a local gang of boys, but quickly goes off him when he treats her like a dog rather than a girl and forcibly plants a kiss on her.
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  • Ambiguously Gay: Steve and Andy. They have lived together for some time, Nikki gets annoyed that they're being too 'friendly' with her new boyfriend and at one point they come downstairs wearing short dressing gowns, with the implication that they're not wearing anything underneath.
  • Animal Motif: Jayni associates her father with sharks.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Kenny comes across as one at times to Jayni, though she loves him anyway and it's clear he's just messed up by all the crap he's been through.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Jayni's abusive father Jay is the primary antagonist. Although she hates and fears him for hurting her and her mother, Jayni also uncomfortably admits that part of her still loves him and feels sorry for him after they all run away.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Jay finds out the hard way why threatening Auntie Barbara's family in front her is a bad idea.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Barbara. Jayni states that from the neck up, she could easily win any beauty contest.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Barbara towards Nikki, in particular physically defending her when Jay tries to attack her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jay no longer terrorises the family, they move in with Auntie Barbara and Nikki's cancer is in remission, though it's not confirmed if it is fully cured (and there's always the chance it could come back). The last sentence really sums it up: "We're going to live happily ever after. Fingers crossed".
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Jayni does this to her dad early in the book; when she refuses to go to bed out of fear he'll beat her mother and he asks what's "gotten into [her]", she snaps and gives him a "Reason You Suck" Speech, saying he spoils everything with his violent tempers and asking why he can't "be a real dad". This prompts Jay to hit Jayni, setting off the main events of the book.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Auntie Barbara. She is mentioned a few times in the first half of the novel. Then, when Jayni is left home alone with Kenny whilst Nikki is in hospital, she realises she can call Barbara for help, prompting her to come look after them.
  • Cool Aunt: Barbara quickly becomes one to Jayni and Kenny.
  • Cool Teacher: Ms Balsam, the headmistress of Larkrise Primary, is a very laid-back and understanding teacher, who doesn't always "dot every i and cross every t" and does her best to support her students and their families. She also rescues Jayni from a gang of boys making her uncomfortable.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Jay is no match whatsoever for Auntie Barbara, who's a trained fighter.
  • Daddy's Girl: Jayni initially pretends to be one to avoid angering her father; she secretly hates him because of his abuse (though she later admits she still loves him too, to an extent). Harpreet is a more straightforward example.
  • Darkest Hour: When Jayni is stuck home alone looking after Kenny due to Nikki going into hospital to remove a breast lump, she runs out of food and money and has no one to turn to for help. It gets to the point where she considers stealing to get food for them when she remembers her mother's estranged sister and calls her for help.
  • Desperately Craves Affection: Nikki. It gets to the point where she actually calls Jay, her abusive estranged husband, to let him know where they are after she has to get a breast lump removed, out of sheer desperation for someone to love her and take care of her. Predictably, it ends in disaster.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Zig-Zagged with Jayni, Nikki and Kenny. On one hand, spectacularly horrible things keep happening to them, but on the other, they also have some amazingly lucky things happen, such as winning ten thousand pounds on a scratch card, successfully guilt-tripping the emergency housing staff into giving them an apartment and Nikki getting a job on a pure fluke by going into a particular pub to buy cigarettes. One of the main themes of the book is arguably that sometimes in life, really bad or really good things can happen and you just have to make the best of it.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Jay is the biggest threat in the first two thirds of the book, with Jayni constantly fearing he will find them. Then, after Jay is kicked out for good by Barbara, the final third of the book switches focus to Nikki and the family trying to overcome an equally intimidating foe: breast cancer.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Jay found out his wife cheated on him and proceeded to beat her so badly, she couldn't leave the house for a week because of the bruising and her young daughter considered calling an ambulance. And this is just one example.
  • Domestic Abuse: Jay is probably one of the most prominent examples of this trope in Wilson's novels. He is blatantly emotionally and physically abusive towards his wife Nikki and terrorises his kids too (Jayni more so than Kenny).
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Nikki occasionally does this. After finding out she has a breast lump, she gets very drunk whilst working her shift at a pub, resulting in her being fired for drinking on the job.
  • Dude Magnet: Nikki. Unfortunately, she tends to attract men who are no good for also sets off her abusive husband if other men pay her attention.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Nikki puts up with Jay verbally abusing her and beating her bloody, but the moment he becomes violent towards her daughter, she fights back and runs away with her kids, telling Jayni she "won't stand" for Jay beating their children.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Nikki is blonde and constantly described/depicted as beautiful and sexually attractive. She was even a glamour model years ago. Barbara is also said to be blonde and quite attractive. Jayni herself has this opinion, wishing she were blonde instead of having brown hair and planning on dying it once she's older.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Jay's physical abuse of Jayni and Nikki and the aftermath of their injuries (especially the latter's) are quite gruesome and disturbingly realistic for a kid's book.
  • For Want of a Nail: The events of the book may have gone quite differently if Nikki hadn't casually decided to buy a scratch card from the newsagents', resulting in her winning ten thousand pounds.
  • Gold Digger: Jayni believes Jake is one, seeing as he's a poor student who's shacked up with a woman who has won the lottery and leaves pretty quickly when the money runs out. He claims he isn't and in his defence, he does seem to care about Nikki to an extent and can hardly be blamed for wanting out of his relationship with her - she has just lost her job, has two kids to look after, clearly has a lot of issues and baggage, and Jake's only about 20.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Barbara wears purple most of the time and is said to move quite gracefully in spite of her extra weight. Crosses over with Purple Is Powerful when she's revealed to be a badass.
  • Groin Attack: Barbara delivers one to Jay in defence of Nikki and the kids.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Jay. Jayni states that she thinks his brain is wired funny to explode at random intervals, as sometimes the slightest of things or nothing at all can set him off.
  • Harmful to Minors: Almost everything that Jayni and Kenny go through in the novel, but especially being exposed to domestic violence.
  • Hates Their Parent: Jayni states that she knew she hated her father after seeing her mother's bruises from him beating her worse than ever. Him verbally abusing her and eventually hitting her across the face when she calls him out doesn't improve her opinion of him; however, she later privately admits to herself that part of her still loves him as well as hating him.
  • Hope Spot: Early in the novel, Jayni starts to wonder if things will be alright after all when Jay is happy to find out about the lottery money and insists they all go out as a family to celebrate. Goes without saying that it doesn't last long.
  • Hypocrite: Jay hits his wife if another man "so much as looked at her", but he himself openly flirts with other women - in front of his wife no less.
  • Kick the Dog: After punching Nikki for trying to defend their daughter, Jay kicks her whilst she's lying on the ground. It's also mentioned that at her mother's funeral, Nikki tried to hug her father only for him to push her away and say it was her fault her mother got sick (with cancer). Jay also goes out of his way to be nasty to Barbara, mockingly calling her "Barbie" and a "fat freak".
  • Kiddie Kid: Kenny, in a contrast to Jayni, sometimes acts younger than expected for his age, he's about six, but throws tantrums, takes Jayni literally when she play-pretends they're in Australia (in the middle of London), hates it when anyone besides his family tries to touch him and still wets the bed. It's strongly implied he acts this way due to the trauma and stress of living in a violent home, then being uprooted and moved to a new city and school with little warning.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Steve. He can be a bit of a snob and is condescending towards Jayni and her family, but he still provides them with food when they run out and also comes to their assistance armed with an umbrella when he hears the fight between Jay and Barbara.
  • Mama Bear: When Jay hits her daughter, Nikki leaps at him and claws his face with her nails, enduring a savage beating in the process. She then takes both her children and flees to London to protect them. Auntie Barbara later kicks Jay's butt using martial arts when he threatens her sister, niece and nephew.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Did Jayni's 'ordeal' at the shark tank really cure her mother's cancer? Jayni herself acknowledges it's very unlikely to be the case, but she still feels better for it.
  • Meaningful Name: Jayni's name is spelt in such an unusual way because she's named after both her parents (Jay and Nikki), as she "brought them together again". Her choosing the name Lola Rose is an attempt to shed her awkward, Shrinking Violet self and become more sophisticated and grown-up (and possibly to distance herself from her father)...with mixed results.
  • Meaningful Rename: The end implies that Jayni will continue living as Lola Rose, an identity she struggled to live up to for most of the book.
  • Minor Living Alone: Jayni and Kenny for a few weeks when Nikki has to go into hospital.
  • My Greatest Failure: Near the end of the novel, Nikki reveals she deeply regrets having an affair with her sister's fiancé Michael a few weeks before the wedding, as it caused a rift between them and ruined Barbara and Michael's relationship. Barbara says that although she was furious with Nikki at the time, she's happy they've made up again now. She also admits that in hindsight she blames Michael more (Nikki was just sixteen while Michael was a grown man, so he should really have known better) and at least she found out she didn't actually love him as much as she thought she did before they got married.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Nikki renames herself Victoria, after Victoria Beckham ("I always liked Posh best of all the Spice Girls").
  • No-Tell Motel: The family checks into a very shifty hotel on their first night in London, having nowhere else to go. Features staples such as grimy toilet seats, a bed cover with cigarette stains and neighbouring guests arguing or listening to their TV's full blast all night long. The guy at the front desk drags himself away from his TV just long enough to take Nikki's money, barely even listening to her spiel about getting a bloody nose from walking into a lamppost. The family checks into a much nicer hotel the following morning.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Jay finds a pair of Jake's underpants which he had left behind, causing him to realise Nikki had been with another man during their separation.
  • Parents as People: Nikki, so very much. She is a very flawed person, but loves her children and tries to look after them as best she can, despite struggling with her own issues.
  • Parental Substitute: Kenny hopes that Jake, Nikki's new boyfriend, will become one and treats him like a father. However, it's deconstructed, as Jake is barely more than a kid himself (he's in college still) and is clearly just looking for a fling with Nikki.
  • Police Are Useless: Nikki has this opinion, saying that they're "useless when there's a domestic" which is why she doesn't call the cops on Jay.
  • Potty Failure: Kenny wets the bed a lot; it's strongly implied to be a side-effect of the trauma he's gone through. He also wets himself from terror when he sees Barbara and Jay fighting.
  • Promoted to Parent: Jayni mentions that her mother tends to let her take responsibility. She also has to "mop up" after her brother and mother (when the latter's been beaten up by her husband). Later, when Nikki starts working night shifts at a pub and has to go into hospital, Jayni is solely responsible for Kenny.
  • Put on a Bus: Jay is absent for most of the story after the family goes on the run. He turns up again near the end of the book, but after threatening Nikki, Barbara kicks his ass and he takes off, never to return.
  • Protagonist Title: The title of the novel refers to Jayni, the main character and narrator, or more specifically the name she takes after running away from her abusive father.
  • Running Away From Home/Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Nikki, Jayni and Kenny flee their home at the beginning of the story to escape from Jay's abuse, especially due to Nikki's fear he will start beating Jayni as well. The novel largely chronicles their attempt to start a new life in London, including changing their names to avoid being tracked down by Jay (Nikki Fenton becomes Victoria Luck, Kenny becomes Kendall and Jayni becomes Lola Rose).
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Nikki and Barbara, who are said to be like "chalk and cheese". Barbara is tall and rather fat, and apparently only ever had one serious relationship (which ended badly), while Nikki is small, slim and loves getting attention from guys (though it doesn't usually end well for her). About the only things they have in common is that they're both blondes, have pretty faces and love Nikki's children very much.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Jay, discounting flashbacks or Imagine Spots, only appears in the first three chapters and again near the end, but is singlehandedly responsible for almost everything that happens in the novel and is a threatening presence throughout the story.
  • Sucky School: Larkrise Primary is a downplayed example. It's severely underfunded, to the point that it might actually be closed down in a year, it's situated on the Wrong Side of the Tracks and has a barbed wire fence (Nikki speculates on whether it's it keep the kids in or other people out). However, headmistress Ms Balsam is a Cool Teacher who does her best to keep the school running and supports her students, and overall it doesn't seem too bad.
  • Take Care of the Kids: Nikki asks her sister Barbara to look after her children in case she dies of cancer.
  • Taking the Kids: The basic premise of the novel is Nikki fleeing her abusive husband along with their two children. Although Jay had been abusing her for years, she simply put up with it until he hits their daughter; believing he will start beating Jayni as well, she finally decides to leave him to protect them. Jayni is completely fine with it because her dad terrifies her, while her brother Kenny takes a bit more persuading because he's younger and doesn't fully understand what's happening. When Nikki later wonders if she overreacted, Jayni reassures her she did the right thing.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Jay is described as such. Deconstructed in that whilst he's good looking, he's also a violent bully.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Nikki was only seventeen when she had Jayni.
  • Those Two Girls: Jayni and Harpreet become this.
  • Those Two Guys: Steve and Andy. It's implied they might be in a relationship.
  • The Topic of Cancer: Jayni's grandmother and one of Harpreet's great aunts are both mentioned as having died from cancer. The second half of the novel largely focuses on Nikki being diagnosed with and battling breast cancer.
  • Troubled Child: Both Jayni and Kenny. Jayni suffers from low self-esteem and anxiety, Kenny acts more like a toddler than a six year-old sometimes, is prone to emotional outbursts and doesn't much like interacting with other kids. They both grew up with a violent father who beats their mother and is verbally abusive to Jayni, at the least, as well as having to run away and start a new life from scratch.
  • The Unfavorite:
    • Jayni is to her father. He seems to prefer Kenny, never hitting or verbally abusing him. Later, when Jay is talking about starting over with his family, he mentions his wife and son, but seems to forget about Jayni until Nikki prompts him. Jayni has the feeling he blames her for Nikki running away with the kids, even though she did it because he punched Jayni.
    • Nikki was to her father. While he was a Jerkass to both Barbara and Nikki, she really got it in the neck because she was very rebellious and acted out a lot. He said she'd end up going to hell and even blamed her for her mother getting cancer, saying she died of shame because her youngest daughter was "living with a vicious criminal". While he's got a point about Jay being bad news, this implies that he blamed his daughter for being abused and it's further implied one of the reasons Nikki stays with Jay is because her family is so unsupportive and never showed her affection.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: Both Jayni and Kenny are messed up mentally from seeing their mother being beaten by their father; reading about her injuries and Jay beating Jayni and Nikki is pretty disturbing for the reader too. After seeing the fight between Barbara and Jay, Jayni and Kenny are both briefly frozen in shock and Kenny actually wets himself.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Nikki and Jayni, respectively. Deconstructed and Played for Drama all the way, as Nikki's unwillingness to take responsibility and emotional immaturity leaves her ten/eleven year old daughter to pick up the slack, which doesn't make things any easier for either of them.
  • Weight Woe: Jayni is very self-conscious about her weight and worries she'll end up very fat like her Auntie Barbara. She does seem to have a tendency to comfort eat when she's upset or stressed (which is a lot), but it's unclear if she's actually overweight or just exaggerating it in her mind.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: When Jay attempts to strike Nikki in front of her, Barbara uses martial arts to defend her and threatens to kill him if ever comes near Nikki and the kids again.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: A rather sad example with Jayni. She is forced to behave and think in a more mature manner because of her circumstances and is exposed to things no child should be. It's deconstructed too, as she eventually realises that as a kid, there are some things she simply cannot cope with or handle by herself, nor should she have to.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Jay. He beats his wife (even when she was pregnant with Kenny) and attacks Barbara with a broken mug.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Jay losing his temper and hitting his young daughter across the face is the catalyst for the events of the novel. Barbara and Nikki's father also used to hit them.
  • You're Not My Father: Jayni says this almost word for word when Jake tries to forbid her from going out.


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