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Lily is the eldest child in the Green family. She has two younger half-sisters, (Bliss and Pixie), and one younger half-brother (Baxter). Baxter and Bliss are twins. She often has to take care of them when their mother, Kate Green, goes out to the pub, newsagent or off-licence. Although Lily does not usually mind being shouldered with the responsibility, she sometimes resents it. When Lily's mother meets Gordon, her new boyfriend, at a local club, Kate is convinced that her life has improved and she feels as if she and Gordon " are on a rollercoaster up to heaven." Lily becomes cross with her mother for coming home very late. That night, Lily takes care of her brother and sisters by drawing and watching T.V. The next day, Kate takes her children on a frivolous shopping expedition and uses a credit card, which is said to be lent to Kate which causes Lily to become very suspicious. She worries about where and how her mum REALLY obtained the card.
Kate flies to Spain to be with Gordon. Lily is fearful and angry when her mother suggests that Mikey, Kate's ex-husband, look after the rest of the family while Kate travels to Spain. Kate tells Lily that she has yet to reveal to Gordon that she has children. She further annoys Lily when Kate reveals that she feels as if she deserves a holiday from living in a "dump." Kate leaves a voicemail message for Mikey to tell him that he must take care of the children while Kate is on holiday. Lily is afraid of Mikey. By the time Mikey returns Kate's call, Kate has already left for Spain. Mikey tells Lily that he is on his way to Glasgow and tells Lily to tell her mother not to go anywhere. Lily pretends that she has delivered the message.
The children survive by eating what is left in the fridge. Lily is able to prepare simple meals for her siblings because she has grown accustomed to caring for them. Lily is frightened and cross because she is the one who is in charge. She is fearful that people will find out about her situation and that she will be separated from her siblings. She manages by taking her brother and sisters to the park as well as by using her imagination to entertain them. She also tries to deal with adults who ask about the whereabouts of her mother, such as the couple the children encounter in the park.
Mr Abbot, Lily's teacher, comes to the flat because he is concerned that the children have not attended school and that Lily failed to go on the trip to the art gallery. Lily tells her teacher that they have all been ill and that her mother is at the shops to purchase medicine. By this time "Old Kath", a neighbour in the flats, has also become suspicious of what's going on with the children. Lily is scared that Mr Abbot will return with social workers so she packs food, clothing and bedding and tells the others that they are going to camp in the park. The children run away to the park but have no tent or money; they are all very scared and struggle to feed themselves. They survive by stealing leftover food from a nearby cafe, until the owners tell them off. Lily also steals food from a posh house.
Lily goes back to the flat to check if Kate has returned; but while Lily is gone, Bliss falls out of a tree (playing "Monkeys" with Baxter) and breaks her leg. Lily realises that she needs adult intervention. She calls an ambulance and Bliss is taken to hospital. Kate arrives at the hospital worried about Bliss. The police charge Kate with child neglect and sentence her to community service. Lily goes to a children's home, split apart from her siblings Baxter and Pixie who were fostered, while Bliss stays in the hospital. The story ends with Lily drawing a picture of the Green family and writing at the bottom: "We're all going to be together very, very soon."
The Green Family
Lily Green: Lily narrates the novel in first person. She is the eldest of the Green children and takes care of her siblings most of the time. She is eleven years old. Although she likes taking care of her siblings, she uses her vivid imagination to play a 'Lily Alone' game where she fantasizes that she lives alone in a big white house with beautiful rooms. She views it as being as 'pristine as a palace' – a palace which she will design all by herself. She uses an expensive drawing pad, purchased by her mother, upon which to draw. Lily is patient, gentle and responsible, but her mother uses her as a nanny and leaves her alone with Baxter, Bliss and Pixie most nights to club and drink. Lily loves her mother so much she does not realise that her mother is a failure as a parent for leaving her kids alone and will often breakdown crying due to the pressure of responsibility. At the end of the book she is put into a care home apart from her siblings and mother, but believes that they will all be together soon.
Bliss Green: Lily's six-year-old half-sister who barely utters a word. She treasures 'Headless,' a toy white polar bear that lost its head in an unfortunate accident. She loves the fairytale Cinderella and begs Lily to read it to her. Bliss is the perfect model of a sweet, shy little girl who has very intense loves for the things around her, but finds difficulty in expressing herself properly or making herself heard over the constant noise of Lily trying to keep the kids in order, Baxter swearing and shouting and Pixie screaming for ice cream and chippies. She loves to talk with Lily when she is alone. Like Lily, she is a loner, preferring to be on her own. Other children her age are loud and boisterous, making Bliss stick out in class; however, her twin brother Baxter sticks up for her. She does not like school because of this, has doubts about her mum's ability to look after her kids properly but keeps all her thoughts to herself. She has an irritating phobia of beetles and germs, finds it difficult to cope with normal social life and to stop her dominating twin brother from walking all over her, and adores her big sister Lily. Bliss ends up being taken to the hospital when she has a terrible accident in the park and breaks her leg.
Baxter Green: Lily's six-year-old half-brother and Bliss's twin. Baxter acts like his dad, Mikey, swaggering and swearing. He is the only boy of the Green family, and his favourite role model, the man he worships and adores, is his dad. He likes to cut his hair really short to look as much like Mikey as he can, prefers to act tough and emphasises his toughness to the limit, to the point where he has difficulty admitting when he is really afraid or upset. He quenches his feelings by teasing his sister, but shows he loves her when she breaks her leg. He is fostered by a kind old lady along with Pixie at the end of the book. His favourite toy is a fork lift truck, which his Mum purchases with a credit card.
Pixie Green: The baby of the Green family. A sweet, cheeky, talkative three year old who is favoured by her mum and many others. Lily loves her dearly but feels constantly pressured by her and Baxter's endless demands for things that they want and can't have. Kate, who is undoubtedly a pretty useless mother, spoils her a bit to keep her quiet and sweet. Pixie also loves ice-cream. Lily complains that she talks too much.
Mum/Kate Green: She is the mother of the Green family. She has had little luck in love and has had all of her children with different fathers - all of which are ex's. She had Lily when she was 15 and was very close to her. She then had Baxter, Bliss and Pixie with her ex-husbands Mikey and Paul. When she was married to Paul she fell into a lot of debt, and eventually stole a credit card to buy stuff. She ended up in a magistrates' court and was let off with a fine after 'acting dumb'. Even though she didn't like Paul much, she fell into depression after he died, and soon after lost her job at the canteen and stayed home smoking. Lily feels that her mum often drinks too much and feels that she has been shouldered with too much responsibility in terms of taking care of her siblings. Lily's mum has long, lovely hair and when she feels up to it, she loves to dress up in tight clothing and wear high heels. She went off to Spain with Gordon, her new boyfriend, leaving all of her children alone to fend for themselves. She does not treat her eldest daughter properly and gives her too much responsibility after making her look after her younger siblings.
Mr. Abbott: Lily's favourite teacher who wanted Lily to come to the Art Gallery but Lily didn't go because she could not leave her siblings alone. She adores him because he takes an active interest in her and never makes her feel silly like her other teachers do. He calls social services after becoming worried about Lily but soon asks her to forgive him since he greatly regrets it.
Arnie and Elizabeth: A middle aged couple who were teachers, Arnie as a History teacher and Elizabeth as a PE teacher. When Lily and her siblings were in the park Arnie offered them Polos and walked with them to the park gates before Lily bumped into a stranger.
Jenny and Jan: Friends with Lily's mum They used to work with Lily's mum in a canteen. She met up with them when she went clubbing when she left Lily alone to look after her brothers and sisters. It is Jenny who 'sold' her a credit card in the book. Jenny and Jan are briefly mentioned in the book.
Gordon: Mum's new boyfriend who is nineteen years old. They travel together to Spain. Mum claims that there is a seven-year age difference between the two of them. Gordon works at his Uncle's nightclub in Spain. According to Mum, Gordon looks like a rich, young guy. He finds out that she has kids when Kate went to Spain with him, dumps her and pays for her flight back.
Old Kath: A nosy old woman who lives next to the Green family. According to Lily, Kath uses too much black hair dye (not that she has much hair left to colour). She also wears too much bright red lipstick. Lily does not like her very much because Kath says mean things about Lily's mum behind her back.
Mikey: Bliss and Baxter's dad. Lily describes him as being a big, fat and ugly guy. Lily also detests Mikey because he has a scary dog named Rex who bit Bliss on her hand. She feels that Mikey does not like her very much either because Mikey always accuses Lily of staring at him. Mikey also went to Scotland and left the kids alone.
Paul: Kate's second husband who is "thin and tweedy". He never cared about her or Pixie, his daughter, and always lied on the sofa. He also took drugs until he died, making Kate feel depressed.