Book Review: Make Lemonade

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff

SUMMARY: Jolly is seventeen. She can't really spell. She doesn't have much of a job. And she has two little kids from two different, absent fathers. Jolly knows she can't cope with Jilly and Jeremy all by herself. So she posts a notice on the school bulletin board: BABYSITTER NEEDED BAD. No one replies but Verna LaVaughn, who's only fourteen. How much help can she be? For a while, Jolly, Jilly, Jeremy, and LaVaughn are an extraordinary family. Then LaVaughn takes the first steps toward building her own future, and Jolly begins the long slow process of turning the lemons of her life into lemonade. (from the inside flap)

OPINION: This free verse novel has been around for a while (1993), but it is still worth your time. LaVaughn is wholly concerned with going to college and getting out of the ghetto. The babysitting job seems like an attractive way to regularly add money to her bank account. What she doesn't count on is actually liking Jolly and her kids, wanting to support them, and getting on the bad side of her own strong-willed mother in the process. This book breaks down a lot of stereotypes about teen mothers, poverty, and joblessness (interestingly, without ever assigning race to the characters). And LaVaughn proves that tough love isn't the only kind of love that can change the lives of others. This is a great "classic" YA book that I have never read before! I highly recommend it. Also, if you like it, look for the sequel, True Believer.

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