cover image Girls in Love

Girls in Love

Jacqueline Wilson. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $11.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-385-90040-9

In Wilson's (The Story of Tracy Beaker) fast-paced first book in the Girlfriends Trilogy, ninth-grader Ellie describes why she's ""feeling so fed up"" and the sticky situations in which she finds herself. Ellie's first-person narration possesses a Bridget Jones-like energy and compulsiveness. Her constant obsession with her weight gets old, but her loathing of teachers, family and herself will feel familiar. Ellie's relationship with her two best friends, Nadine and Magda, and especially with nerdy Dan, whom she meets on holiday, serve as good models without being didactic. Feeling jealous after hearing about Nadine's new older boyfriend and Magda's summer flirtations, Ellie pretends that Dan is her boyfriend, though she substitutes his looks with those of a cute boy she's crushing on. As Dan expresses his romantic feelings for her through the letters they exchange, it becomes obvious that she won't be able to keep up her farce forever. Meanwhile, Nadine's boyfriend pressures Nadine for sex, and there's tension between Ellie's dad and stepmother. The short lists at the end of each chapter (like ""nine most embarrassing moments"") give readers insight into Ellie's past and her character. There are tender moments, such as when the heroine visits heartbroken Nadine, and the funny narrative, filled with British colloquialisms, and clever exchanges with Dan make this a breezy read. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)