Jelly’s life

Jelly’s home
Jelly lives with her mum, Arlene, on the first floor of a not-very-pretty block of flats. When I was writing the book, I found it was very important for me to know the layout of the flat so that when people were coming in and out of rooms, I could be accurate about it. The floorplan doesn’t ever appear in the book, but this is what Jelly’s flat looks like:

I haven’t added in all the bits of furniture, but they weren’t necessary for the story. And it’s not to scale or anything! The bobbly bits on the wall to the left of the main door are coat hooks – in one scene, Jelly opens the door and immediately sees Chris’s jacket hanging there. Mum’s bedroom should have a desk in it, since she works in there. Never mind, you get the idea!

Jelly’s mum, Arlene
Arlene is very slim and attractive and spends a lot of her time making sure she stays that way. She’s been a single mum since Jelly was little, so she knows what it is to have to work very hard to give her child nice things. Jelly is the best thing in her life, and Arlene loves to spoil her with new clothes or tasty treats. She doesn’t realise it, but Arlene is encouraging Jelly to have a less-than-healthy relationship with food. Arlene’s own childhood was strict and restricted, which has left her with very little self-esteem or confidence in herself. This is why she often ends up with boyfriends who don’t respect her, because she isn’t really sure she’s worth respecting.

Jelly’s two best friends, Kayma and Sanvi
Kayma and Sanvi have been friends with Jelly for years. Kayma is more confident, and eggs Jelly on with her impressions. Sanvi is quieter and doesn’t like risking trouble. Kayma’s family has North African heritage (unspecified) and Sanvi’s family is originally from India (an unspecified area) though both Kayma and Sanvi have lived in Britain all their lives. Kayma has two sisters, older Fliss and younger Hula. Kayma’s father was killed in a car crash (which also disabled Hula) when she was much younger, and she now has a stepfather called George. Sanvi’s father runs an Indian restaurant, though Sanvi reckons her mum is the better cook!

Jelly’s grandparents
In an early draft, they had names – Pete and Hilary – but I can’t now remember if those names made it to the final version of the book. Grandad has a very overpowering personality. He has a lot of opinions, many of them bigoted. He considers that girls shouldn’t play rugby, and he rants about women drivers. He also makes racial slurs. He comments on Jelly’s size in a negative way, and he puts Jelly’s mum down all the time. Basically, he’s not a terribly nice person. Nan is much kinder and sweeter, but she’s a very passive, shadowy character because Grandad doesn’t care about what she has to say, so she’s mostly given up trying to say anything.

Lennon is the character who changes everything. He’s the catalyst for the story: without Lennon, Jelly and her mum would carry on exactly as they were. Lennon is the singer in a band and he also writes songs. He plays guitar and has travelled extensively, giving him great experiences with lots of different people around the world. The travel and the music has made him a laid-back kind of person, not one who gets anxious or worried easily. But Lennon also has a crucial character trait: he is empathetic. He is the only one to notice that Jelly is ‘putting on a face’; that underneath she has secrets she’s not telling anyone. He is also very kind to Jelly’s mum, seeing a side to her that her previous boyfriends haven’t, and treating her with respect. We don’t learn much about Lennon’s past, but somehow it doesn’t really matter, because he is so very solid and present and real that the other characters feel safe and secure for the first times in their lives.