The “Girls in Love” Books by Jacqueline Wilson are Great for Teenage Readers

For late 90s/early 2000s nostalgia (a similar timeframe to the brilliant Darren Shan saga) I picked up Jacqueline Wilson’s Girls in Love. I remember it being a TV show years ago although, like Tracy Beaker (another Wilson book), it wasn’t much like the novel.

There are four books in the Girls quartet: Girls in Love, Girls Under Pressure, Girls Out Late, and Girls in Tears. Most of Jacqueline Wilson’s books are about girls around 8-11 years old, but in this series we follow Ellie, who is 13, and her two best friends in the same year at school.

These stories really reminded me of being a teenager. No mobile phones or iPads, lots of drawing and reading, and the very early times of having one computer per household (any other 90s kids remember the “computer room?”).

In Girls in Love, Ellie and her two best friends, Magda and Nadine, all get boyfriends… kind of. Nadine dates an older guy, Magda is a little jealous of said guy and chases after a boy at another school, and Ellie, self-conscious and green with envy, makes up a boyfriend, named after the dopy and nerdy boy Dan she met on holiday and based on her gorgeous neighbour.

We got to learn a lot about Magda, Nadine, and Ellie in this book. Like many of Wilson’s main characters, she is shy, creative, and self-conscious. She loves to draw and is worried about her friends (who, in her opinion, are much prettier and cooler).

Click here to get Girls in Love.

Girls Under Pressure was much more serious. Ellie develops an obsession with her weight, which threatens to turn into something more serious.

Wilson has an excellent way of writing from the eyes of a teenager, and many people can probably relate to how Ellie is feeling.

Click here to buy Girls Under Pressure.

I also enjoyed Girls Out Late, where Ellie gets her first proper boyfriend!

I’m not sure whether I really like him or not. He tends to get jealous of Ellie’s friendship with the girls and demands a lot of her attention. Still, it’s perhaps more realistic as he’s only 16.

Click here to get Girls Out Late.

Girls in Tears is heart-wrenchingly sad and I actually felt angry and upset myself while I was reading it.

Ellie deals with family problems, her friends having private jokes, and even betrayal from her boyfriend. It shows how difficult life can be for teenagers and Wilson delivers it perfectly.

Click here to get Girls in Tears.

I like these books a lot, and it was fun to engage in some nostalgia in the week it took me to read them. If you have a teenager, she might like these books.

Japanese Alcoholic Strawberry Milkshake

When I arrived at my homestay family’s house on Friday, my ‘Papa’ said to me, “You’d like to drink, right?” Well, I’m not one to turn down kindness, so he promptly bought me a load of stuff. I tried to say no but darn it, he’s persistent 🙂

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Because they live in the countryside, their supermarkets and such tend to be much bigger than in Tokyo since land is less expensive. I was surprised to see a bunch of drinks I’d never heard of before.

You can usually buy individual cans for around 100 yen each. I saw this really interesting-looking strawberry milk… with alcohol in it. It’s called いちご&ミルクハイ or “Ichigo & Milk Hai.”

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Since strawberry milkshakes strike me as something children would be more likely to drink, I thought this was fascinating. So what would it taste like? Well, I just tried it. I poured it into a glass to check out the consistency. It was actually thinner than a regular shake, but I was still hit with a powerful scent of… well, what you’d expect a strawberry milkshake to smell like.

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It actually tastes exactly like a milkshake! You can hardly tell there’s alcohol in it at all. At 3%, it was never going to taste strong. You could easily give this to someone who is unaware it’s alcoholic and for them to not notice.

Papa said that it’s sort of an “initiation” drink for those who’ve turned 20 (the legal drinking age in Japan) because it’s nomiyasui or goes down easily. Other 3% alcohol beverages like this include the Horoyoi range and things like mango or orange ‘hai’s.

Anyway, that’s the Ichigo & Milk Hai for you! Think you’ll give it a try?

Video Games, Music, and Ramen in Tokyo

There’s a ramen restaurant near our house. Because of its location, it’s almost unknown, but it’s really trendy. It’s somewhere between a bar and a restaurant and has a theme that’s sort of a mix between music and surfing.

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This time, the owner got out his old SNES console and asked us if we wanted to have a go. Food and games?? I’d just spent the past nine hours on the PlayStation 4 but nobody needed to know.

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He set it up and we had enormous fun playing Super Mario, Tetris, and Street Fighter 2.

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On top of that, we of course got to eat yummy ramen! I like this place because although there isn’t as much variety as other ramen restaurants, the guy can make killer tonkotsu (pork) ramen.

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We also had some gyoza dumplings and it was yummy. What a nice evening!

If you find yourself in Meguro, definitely give this place a try. It is right next to Kushi-Katsu Tanaka and it’s called Iki. Here’s the location on Google Maps.

Meet My Hamsters

Day 15 [New Year’s Resolution]: Meet my Hamsters

Did you have a childhood pet? I think kids were pretty much divided growing up: the family who had a cat, the family who had a dog, the family where one or both parents hated animals, and the family that couldn’t or wouldn’t have a larger animal and had some kind of rodent.

I vaguely remember we had a cat at some point, and we had this big grey hamster that was scared of everything.

About a year ago I was thinking about getting a pet, something I could take care of that was a bit more impressive than a fish. They eat fish here, anyway; if I had one, every time I’d come home with some sushi I’d feel guilty.

Hamsters are sweet little things and affordable, too. To celebrate getting my job last year, I went to a pet shop in Daikanyama and got Shakespeare. He was old and he nibbled, but he was such a little prince. We had a happy six months together before he died of old age.

It didn’t take long to get lonely after he died, so one day I impulse bought a pair of hamsters. I named the boy Hemingway, continuing the trend of naming them after famous writers, and I named the girl Zelda after the princess.

Hemingway is very affectionate and Zelda is more feisty. I had to separate them so they wouldn’t have babies and my second cage was a very small one, so I think she was mad at me for a while. Eventually I gave in and bought her the same three-story house in pink.

She got a lot friendlier after that.

If you want a pet but you’re not sure what to get, I definitely recommend a hamster; they’re easy to look after and they don’t really get lonely if you’re too busy to play with them every day.

They’re really easy to tame and they’ll eat leftover vegetables as well.

And they’re really very sweet.

Tell me about your pets!