Sunday 31 October 2010

Make Lemonade and True Believer, Virginia Euwer Wolff

These two books
make up a story about LaVaughn
LaVaughn is fourteen at the start of Make Lemonade
and turns sixteen at the end of True Believer.
There is a third book out now,
but I haven't read it yet.

She lives with her Mom,
no Dad,
he was killed when she was a little girl.
LaVaughn and her mom live in a rough neighborhood.
The kids have to go through metal detectors to get into school
and six of her classmates have died since she was in fourth grade.
LaVaughn wants to get out of this place.
She's going to college,
which no one else in her apartment ever did before.

It's not easy for LaVaughn.
She has to earn her way through babysitting for Jolly's two kids.
Jolly is even worse off than LaVaughn,
seventeen, two kids and no husband,
no education and now no job.

While she's working hard, LaVaughn can't let her grades slip
or there's no point in getting the college money
if she can't get herself into college.
She needs to save up her money,
she can't afford to work for free,
but she thinks how unfair it is that she's working
for Jolly so she doesn't end up like Jolly.

And Jolly can't afford to pay LaVaughn
she can't manage on her own.
LaVaughn tries to help Jolly to get herself out of this rut,
get herself back to school so she can get a decent job,
and provide for her family
and learn first aid
which saves her littlest baby's life.

Meanwhile LaVaughn's best friends are growing away from her,
and her childhood friend Jody
whose mom moved him away to give him a better life,
is back and beautiful, and he's going to college too, 
and LaVaughn thinks,
wouldn't it be good if Jody likes her like she likes Jody?

I first read True Believer when it was brand new,
several years after its predecessor,
and Make Lemonade wasn't in the shops any more.
It worked on its own and I didn't really need to have read Make Lemonade.

LaVaughn is a bright girl defying her circumstances
trying to understand about life and love, friendship and faith,
a likeable teenager with whom it is easy to identify.
She tells her story in free verse,
with simplicity and at the same time enough colour
that I realise I have a much fuller picture of her world and her life
than the story states in just the words.
The hints in True Believer of her back story,
are not expanded any more, or much
in Make Lemonade, (which came first.)

I like a book that tells you so much more than it seems to,
where a few words make up an entire world,
and the story seems to exist outside and beyond the pages.

True Believer was one of my favourite books
when I was a teenager.
Perhaps I even wrote my name in it.

I'm waiting for the third book,
This Full House
to be published in paperback so it matches the others in the collection.
I have been waiting for this book for nine years,
since I was sixteen.
Back then it said, "coming soon," but it never was published
and I started to think it would never be finished.
I moved on to other books

and sadly I donated True Believer a couple of years later
to a friend or a charity shop.

I regretted it, and got a second copy
and Make Lemonade at last,
(Thank you to Amazon UK, the books cost me a penny each
plus postage and packaging,)
and the books are every bit as good as I can remember.

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