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True Believer


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Eight years after the publication of her groundbreaking Make Lemonade, Wolff has surpassed herself with this sequel. LaVaughn once again narrates in blank verse, but turns from Jolly's story (the unwed mother for whom she babysat) to her own. Characters who stood on the periphery in Make Lemonade come to the fore here, especially LaVaughn's mother and LaVaughn's two best friends, Myrtle and Annie. Opening as the heroine embarks on 10th grade, the novel immediately introduces one of the pivotal issues of puberty: "Me and Myrtle & Annie,/ we all want to save our bodies for our right husband/ when he comes along./.../ There is several ways to do this saving." Myrtle and Annie opt for "Cross Your Legs for Jesus," a religious group with a narrowly prescribed outline for getting into heaven. With her characteristic intuition and wisdom, LaVaughn decides against this path ("It seems like a good idea at first./ But it doesn't feel right/ when I think about it"), and thus begins her solo journey to her own idea of faith. Along the way, the protagonist continues working toward college (with the support of her mother and some model teachers), falls in love, makes new friends and finds a vocation. With delicacy and sensitivity, Wolff examines the tensions that grow out of LaVaughn's decision to improve herself while leaving others behind, her choice to forgive in the face of Myrtle and Annie's intolerance, and her ability to trust despite a dangerous world. In delving into LaVaughn's life, Wolff unmasks the secret thoughts adolescents hold sacred and, in so doing, lets her readers know they are not alone. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 6 Up-A sequel to Virginia Euwer Wolff's Make Lemonade (Holt, 1993), Heather Alicia Simms presents LaVaughn's first person narrative in True Believer (Atheneum, 2001). LaVaughn, now 15, and her mother have weathered hard times, and LaVaughn recognizes just how much she owes her mother. Their mutual dream, for LaVaughn to go to college and leave their dismal inner city neighborhood for good, gives a continual focus to the teen and to listeners. Simms' narration inevitably gives a more prose-like feel to the story which in print looks and feels more poetic. But that is more than balanced out by the qualities Simms brings to the story. Her voice comes across very believably, and since every other character speaks through LaVaughn, Simms uses only slight but effective variations to indicate them. Her on-target reading focuses on this thoughtful teenager who confronts genuine young adult heartaches and growing pains: losing touch with her closest girlhood friends, the meaning of God and religion in her life, her widowed mother's brush with a gold-digger, the surprising discovery that ends her first romantic attachment. The language of this occasionally gritty story resonates with truth, personal growth, and the vision of a better life. While there are some mature themes, they are handled very gently. Every teenager should have the opportunity to meet LaVaughn.-Jane Fenn, Corning-Painted Post West High School, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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