Wolff, Virginia Wolff. 1993. MAKE LEMONADE. Scholastic Inc. ISBN: 0-590-48141-X
"Mostly you dont quit what you start. You stick to the work you begin. You hear me LaVaughn?" (p.10)
LaVaughn's mother made the above statement in reference to college, but LaVaughn, and good for her, applied it to humanity instead. Make Lemonade is a striking contemporary realistic fiction book about two inner city teenage girls and the relationship that ensues. The book tackles tough situations such as single, teenage parenthood, poverty, physical abuse; providing a glimpse into a way of life and in the end offering hope to what appears to be hopeless. The young protagonists of the story are easy for the reader to identify with, even if the reader isnt walking in their shoes.
The short line, lyrical style is appealing. According to a recent article in Book Links, Make Lemonade was a trailblazer for stories in verse. The author wanted to write for readers who could identify with the main character, Jolly, a school drop-out who wasnt a reader. Fourteen-year-old LaVaughn answers the ad on the help needed board requesting a babysitter-- "needed bad." LaVaughn applies for the job and comes to find out that the mother needing help is only three years older then herself. A single mother of two children, she lives in filth, and has her fair share of trouble. It would be easy for LaVaughn to turn down the job. She is determined to be the first one in her family to go to college. Deciding to take the job to save money for tuition, the story unfolds. The relationship goes much deeper than the pocket book-- it is about LaVaughn reaching out and helping people that she has come to care deeply for.
LaVaughn could have left when Jolly lost her job and could not pay her anymore. LaVaughn could have quit when there where nights when Jolly did not come home at all. But she stayed. She heeded her mothers advice and did not quit when it got hard. She has the uncanny ability to look past the poverty and hopeless and help Jolly dig herself out of the pit that she was stuck in.
Wolffs use of figurative language is genius. An example is Jolly looks down on me even though were the same height. (p.97) I can picture that look, cant you?
Ms. Wolff has dedicated this novel to young mothers. Written to reach out to young adults who may be dealing with some of the real life issues that this book presents, it offers hope and inspiration. Read this book. May it encourage many to "make lemonade" out of life's hardship.