by Virginia Euwer Wolff
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, Inc.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-LaVaughn has matured since readers met her in Make Lemonade (Holt, 1993). She is now 15 and questions everything, from her faith, her slowly eroding friendship with Myrtle and Annie because of their religious beliefs, her sexuality, and her feelings for an old friend who has reentered her life and has secrets of his own. LaVaughn has one main goal-to go to college and escape the housing projects. Her strong relationship with her mother and the high morals and far-reaching academic goals that the woman has instilled in the teen inspire hope. Several teachers recognize promise in LaVaughn, and she is placed in an after-school program to improve her speech. She is also moved to an advanced biology class. Written in free verse, this first-person narrative is related in a conversational vernacular that tugs readers into the story. As LaVaughn progresses in her Grammar Build-Up class and recognizes the importance of proper speech, the language of the storyteller subtly changes. This uplifting story is a celebration of an educational system that doesn't let a promising student fall through the cracks. It shows that there is something attainable outside the projects, where drugs, gangs, and violence are a constant threat; gives hope to dream of a better life; and demonstrates one young woman's courage to work as hard as one must to achieve that dream.-Kit Vaughan, Midlothian Middle School, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.