Clean Break (novel)

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Clean Break
Author Jacqueline Wilson
Illustrator Nick Sharratt
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Children's novel
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
21 March 2005
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 169pp

Clean Break is a bestselling[1]children's novel by Jaqueline Wilson, first published in Britain in 2005. It deals with the consequences of a father abandoning his family.

Plot summary[edit]

The main character is a young girl called Emily (nicknamed "Princess Emerald" by her father), who lives with her mother Julie, her half sister Vita, and her half brother Maxie in their grandmother Ellen's house. Although her dad is technically only her stepfather, Em and her siblings all love him completely. Em is highly sensitive and is very insecure about her weight. On Christmas Day, Em, Vita and Maxie receive their presents. Vita receives a reindeer hand-puppet called Dancer (owing to the reindeer wearing a tutu and ballet shoes), Maxie gets a set of Caran D'Ache felt tip pens and Em gets an 'emerald' ring.

Later that day Em overhears a conversation her dad is having and realizes that he is having a secret affair. Em confronts her father, and he owns up to his cheating, and by the next morning he has left.

After Em's step-dad walks out, the rest of the family struggle to get along without him. Em takes up swimming, where she becomes more fit, loses weight and gains confidence within herself.

On New Year's Day, the children go and visit their father, Frankie, at the home of his new partner Sarah, but she is rude, selfish and obnoxious. On a visit they take to a park, Em, Vita and Maxie are astounded to find their Dad passionately kissing Sarah, in a way that he would never do to their mum. Sarah is an aspiring actress and both she and Frankie move to Scotland quite soon into their relationship. When they arrive home, they all reject their Dad's goodbyes.

The children all tell their mother that Sarah and their Dad don't get on very well, and will be home soon. Their Mum is quite depressed, and dependent on Frankie for emotional support. Their grandmother does not understand how much the family all love him and would take him back if he ever returned. Em's Gran decides to take them on a holiday and gets a boyfriend herself. Emily runs into her real dad at a fair, and was scared because he had always abused her mother when she was young.

When Em travels to London to meet her favourite author, the family runs into Frankie again, as he has apparently broken up with Sarah and found a new girlfriend, Hannah, before moving back to London. Emily runs after Frankie, falls and breaks her arm and Dancer (her reindeer puppet), but her dad stops and takes her to the hospital.

The story ends on Christmas Eve just under one year after Frankie left, with Frankie sending dancer back to them as a Christmas present. Somebody taps on the door pretending to be Father Christmas. The book finishes with the line "It looked like it was going to be the best Christmas ever", implying that her stepfather has returned.


Em - The main character. She loves reading, making up stories about Dancer, Vita's reindeer puppet, and her special emerald ring. She is the narrator of the story. She is a little overweight but has lovely blonde hair.

Vita - Em's half sister. She has a reindeer puppet called Dancer. She has mousy brown hair and likes to be fashionable.

Maxie - Em's wimpy half brother who was given a set of expensive felt tip pens for Christmas. He does not want to sleep in a proper bed and he hates pyjamas.

Mum - Em, Vita and Maxie's mum.

Dad - Em's stepdad. Walks out on the family on Boxing Day to live with his new partner Sarah.

Gran - Em's grandmother who tends to get very stroppy at times.

Dancer - Vita's reindeer puppet.

Jenny and Yvonne - Em's friends.

Mrs Marks - Em's teacher.

Jenna Williams - A play on Jacqueline Wilson who is Em's favorite author. Jacqueline Wilson has said that this character is based on herself.[2]

Sarah - The woman that Dad is discovered to be cheating with. When Em, Vita and Maxie meet her, she is obnoxious and rude. She is very skinny, has cropped black hair, and bites her nails. Em can barely fit in her clothes and they squeeze Em in all the wrong areas, making her look very fat.


The Observer wrote "Jacqueline Wilson's particular talent is to find a bittersweetness in the dysfunctional families she describes. In Clean Break, she commutes between love and desertion, fun and responsibility. She is especially good at writing about the gallantry of children, their determination to go on being children and having fun. But, at the same time, her children ... are often compelled to be more mature than their guardians."[3] and Booktrust commented "Jacqueline Wilson proves once again why, as one of the most highly-gifted and most resonant voices in contemporary children's literature, she is also deservedly one of the best-loved."[4]


  1. ^ "Children's favourite: The anthony Horowitz story". The Independent. 9 August 2006. Retrieved 18 July 2015. 
  2. ^ "I met Jacqueline Wilson (cbbc newsround Press Pack Reports)". BBC. 29 October 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Kate Kellaway (27 March 2005). "The ring cycle revisited". The Observer (Guardian News and Media Limited). Retrieved 18 July 2015. 
  4. ^ "Clean Break". Book Trust. Retrieved 18 July 2015.