- Misfit Margo – Mandy: #625 (6 January 1979) – #634 (10 March 1979)
- Artist: Dudley Wynne
Thirteen year old, Margo Ashley has everything a girl could ask for, as well as loving parents, a good home and friends. Then her parents are killed in a plane crash and despite their wealth they never prepared for such an event, spending as much as was earned so there is no money left. Then the shocks keep coming as she discovers she was actually adopted. Her biological parents, the Taylors, gave Margo up for private adoption after Mrs Taylor had an accident and Mr Taylor lost his job, they believed they couldn’t look after her. But now they want to give her a home along with their 3 children Linda, 11, Julie, 9 and Gary, 8. It is a big adjustment for Margo to move into their small estate house and accept this new family. She senses their sincerity and is willing to try, but of course she’s still adapting to the tragedy of losing her parents and because of her nervousness and posh voice she comes off as stand offish to the others. It’s not helped by the Taylors knowing she is used to nicer things try to make her more at home but end up alienating her from the other children. Mrs Taylor is guilty of this in particular, such as wanting to use the good teacup for Margo and making up her bed in the mornings. Margo accidentally puts her foot in it when she mentions not knowing where she can keep all her things as the bedroom is smaller than she’s used to. This upsets Julie as her parents moved out of the bigger bedroom so Margo could have it.
Mr and Mrs Taylor try and get the others to give Margo a chance, so they are more polite but this just makes Margo feel like more of an outcast, they are sitting around like strangers. Linda being closest to her age and also being hot headed means that her and Margo clash the most. Linda does have loyalty to her family so she does stick up for Margo when her friends make comments, but some misunderstandings lead to Linda being more against her. Firstly Margo wants to keep her “Ashley” name, Linda thinks it’s because Margo thinks Taylor sounds too common, but in fact Margo isn’t ready to let go of her parents name just yet, especially after all the changes. When some other girls make spiteful comments, Margo runs away in tears and bumps into Mr Taylor, she cries for her Dad but when Mr Taylor tries to comfort her, the strain of the day makes Margo yell that he is not her father. Linda who had gone to check on Margo, hears this and all her good intentions are gone again.
Things begin to get better after trip to cinema and going out for fish and chips. Margo takes a few days off school and buys her mother an expensive brooch as a birthday present, as she does feel grateful for her and Mr Taylor. But then Mr Taylor buys his wife a cheaper brooch, that he could afford and not wanting him to feel bad, Margo doesn’t give her gift, making the others think she is mean and ungrateful. Later the Taylors have a birthday party and Margo again feels out of place, so when old friends the Lathems show up she is pleased to see them. When they invite her out for dinner Margo thinks everyone will have better fun without her, though in fact Mrs. Taylor was hoping Margo would choose to stay at the party. Margo doesn’t have a great time at dinner either, because now the Lathems snobbery shows, saying how sorry they are that she has to live in such a small place with commoners. Margo sticks up for her family and she believes that will be the end of her friendship with the Lathems.
Feeling she will never fit in Margo decides to runaway but her parents stop her and after a talk, she feels even closer to them. Mother insists that Linda keep Margo company in school, Margo feels that is unfair for Linda to get lumbered with her so she tries to avoid her. When Linda finds out why she is doing this, they finally have a breakthrough and they grow closer. Bt then when they are both invited on holiday with old friends of Margos, their progress threatens to be undone because of the spiteful Paula. The Hartleys and their daughter are lovely people but their niece Paula who is staying with them is a snob and stirs up trouble for Linda. Linda gets to know how it feels to be a misfit, but that makes her lash out. Paula wrecks Lady Hartley’s flowerbed and puts Linda’s hankerchief near it in order to set it up. Margo finds it first and she doesn’t believe Linda would do such a thing so she hides the evidence and takes the blame. Paula accidentally slips up and after getting a full confession is sent home. Linda and the other Taylors are impressed at Margo’s loyalty to the family and Margo calls the Taylors Mom and Dad for the first time, finally she feels accepted and part of the family.
This is a good family drama story, with plenty of conflict and emotional pull to keep the reader invested. It’s no surprise that Margo finds it hard to fit in after such upheaval and despite her new parents’ efforts, there are misunderstandings on both sides. While initially Margo has reservations about the people who gave her up, after meeting them and hearing their explanation, she quickly warms to them. Mr and Mrs Taylor are kind and welcoming, but their efforts to make Margo feel at home, (particularly Mrs Taylor) can actually make her stand out more from the others. Such as Mrs Taylor wanting to use the better cups, and at first thinking that fish and chips would be too common after the cinema. While the story centres on how Margo feels out of place in her new family, the biggest conflict is with herself and new sister, Linda. Margo is a nice girl, with no thoughts of grandeur, so she draws sympathy from the reader and while Linda may come across as antagonistic at times, you can certainly see her viewpoint too.
It seems initially Julie could have made a good ally, as she is the one who thinks Margo would feel more part of family using same cups as everyone else, but mistakes, and a tendency to follow Linda’s lead means their good start is damaged. With Linda being closer in age and hot-tempered it makes more sense to see her and Margo clashing, so we actually don’t get a lot of time with Margo and her other siblings. It’s interesting to see a reversal of the situation, when Linda goes on holiday with Margo. Similarly she is sensitive about being a misfit, but their reactions are different, as Linda automatically gets defensive. It was good to see Linda and Margo were already getting closer, when Paula enters and nearly undoes everything. It could have easily had a villain undermining things all along but I’m glad she was used just as a climax, to further prove Margo would stand by her family. I was also glad it wasn’t just this one event that made Linda change her mind about Margo, that they had already made progress in their relationship. It makes the story flow better that way.
Dudley Wynne, often drew emotional stories, and he captures the family dynamics and Margo’s loneliness well here. There are some very heart-rending scenes such as when Margo breaks down, crying for her Dad, and Mr Taylor comforts her, you can certainly see his hurt when she rebuffs him, but understand that it wasn’t intentional on her part. All the family are very relatable and as a reader you just want them to speak to each other and clear up the misunderstandings, but you are never frustrated with the characters, because you can understand how they’ve got to this point. Paula is a typical devious, snobbish character, which is fine, but as I mentioned I’m glad she was only in the last few episodes. The other snobs, the Lathems, are interesting as when we first meet them they look after Margo after her parents death and seem like nice people, so it’s surprising to see their prejudices when outside of their own environment. It is a well written character focused story.