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1 Burnside Children's- Michael L. Printz Award Winners
1 Burnside Children's Young Adult- General

Other titles in the Make Lemonade Trilogy series:

True Believer

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True Believer Cover

ISBN13: 9780689852886
ISBN10: 0689852886
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

1.

My name is LaVaughn and I am 15.

When a little kid draws a picture

it is all a big face

and some arms stuck on.

That's their life.

Well, then:

You get older

and you are a whole mess of things,

new thoughts, sorry feelings,

big plans, enormous doubts,

going along hoping and getting disappointed,

over and over again,

no wonder I don't recognize

my little crayon picture.

It appears to be me

and it is

and it is not.

2.

In the sex class we have to take by school law

where they showed condoms and scared us about AIDS,

they said, "Sexuality is the most confusing thing

about being a teenager." I am sure

this is correct

because I strained my ears to hear over the racket

of kids making a joke of the class,

waving condoms on their fingers,

hooting.

And also because the sex teacher said it four times.

But me and my friends Myrtle and Annie

say it don't have to be the most confusing.

There is math and other hard subjects too

and street murders right near your block,

even people you loved.

And also torment of being let down

by what you counted on.

Me and Myrtle and Annie could say 1,000 examples.

The thing to do is stay virgin.

Then you don't have to wonder if you're pregnant

or worry about being a bad person

or decide whether to have the baby or abort it

or wonder for the rest of your life

if the baby is healthy

in her adopted home. Or his.

Me and Myrtle and Annie,

we all want to save our bodies for our right husband

when he comes along.

There is several ways to do this saving.

One is be snarly nasty to boys and not be their friend

and they will stay away from you.

But there is this girl everybody knows about,

she hated boys and men of all kinds

and one day she got raped just by going

to the discount store, she is a wreck you pity,

she slides her back along the locker doors in the hallways

and has lurching eyes.

Another way is Cross Your Legs for Jesus.

This is the club Myrtle joined, and Annie will probably too.

For the club you memorize Bible verses,

and in the club you will go to Hell if you have unmarried sex.

The club has many retreats and parties and fun picnics.

Boys are in it too.

The third way is never go anywhere by yourself.

I believe in my heart each of these 3 are not for me.

Be nasty to all boys and men?

No. I like them.

And it didn't work for that poor girl.

And Cross Your Legs for Jesus seems like a good idea at first.

But it doesn't feel right

when I think about it.

Does Jesus want that droopy raped girl to go to Hell?

And number 3 is trouble from beginning to end.

Never go anywhere alone? Sometimes I like to be alone.

To think.

I don't know how you recognize your own special husband

when he comes along. Will he look

totally different? Or does he look like everybody else

and you're the only one to recognize him?

I sure would like to get kissed.

How that would feel on my mouth.

How different I would be after,

a changed climate down in my insides.

3.

And another thing.

My mom sat me down last night and she said,

"Verna LaVaughn. You remember your college plans."

This was not a question. She used both my names.

"Sure, I remember." This is too offhand for her

and she snaps at me about my tone of voice.

She has radar,

can feel rudeness coming, also sarcasm

before they start.

Also fake tiredness when you don't want to answer.

With my mom you are alert at attention or nothing.

"Yes, I remember my college plans," I say, polite.

"Well, you make sure you do.

Because I got a better job offer, I'll quit this mere little job

if you're sure you remember about college.

This job pays more,

I can put more in your college account.

It has better health benefits and dental."

And she says she'll have night meetings,

and for sure more paperwork. "I have to know," she says.

"Will you make me proud I took this big jump?

"Put yourself in my place, LaVaughn.

More of me goes to the office, less of me can stay home.

You understand?"

Sure, I'm happy for her new job.

This might mean I'd have more room to myself

without her standing over me

watching my own personal judgment.

"I understand," I say back.

"I don't think so.

You know what this means?

This means you can't do anything

real

dumb,

LaVaughn."

She looks at me with her face full of rules.

I know the rules, have always known them.

Go to school, do homework,

have safe friends,

have a job after school,

don't make bad decisions.

When I baby-sat for that Jolly

with her two babies and no husband

was a bad decision my mom thought,

but I come out of that with no harm done,

and I also helped Jolly get up

after what her life done to her.

And those little kids were so cute, I miss them still.

"'Cause I can't pull you out of any mess, Verna LaVaughn,"

my mom aims her eyebrows at me.

"You got your work to do,

I got mine. There's only just so much of me

to go around."

At this moment I love my mom real much

knowing so much of her has been going around me

my whole life.

Then in the next minute she says,

"I seen many youngsters change their minds,

forgetting their life plan

or they pretend they never had one.

You need a long memory, LaVaughn.

You can't go forgetting the minute it gets too hard."

I say I know that.

We agree I still mean it about college.

I tell her I appreciate her.

And I truly believe

those things are both completely true.

And three hours go by till she starts again.

I'm in bed, still awake.

She comes in and sits on the edge

and she says,

"And another thing.

"You know what would stop your college plans

for sure, LaVaughn."

This too is not a question.

I'm supposed to know. I can think of many things,

money first of all.

Or a deadly accident on the street, her getting fired,

me getting low grades,

all the disasters that happen in many varieties

to people just trying to go along.

"A baby," she says.

"Oh!" I say, in huge surprise. "Not me. For sure. Promise."

"So you say now," she says.

"Promises are easy to break," she says.

"People get confused.

You can't do that, LaVaughn.

You can not let yourself get confused.

You know what I mean?"

"Mom," I say, "I'm not confused."

"People are confusable," she goes on.

"You keep your eyes on college.

I tell you this, LaVaughn:

What's down there between a person's legs

gets them into more trouble than anything."

This is embarrassing. I don't want to hear her opinion.

"I'm counting on you like I never counted on anybody

since your dad was here."

I tell her she can count on me.

We say Goodnight

and I am relieved my mom is out of my own private room

with her depending and counting on

and warnings.

I have hopes for life and some love too

and surprises.

After a long time I go to sleep

and dream of dancing

with somebody, nobody clear, just vague

with his arms around me.

And he likes the real LaVaughn in me.

4.

I am lucky,

born under a good star, maybe.

Of the bad things that happened

the worst, top of the list of all time, is my dad got killed

when I was so little.

It is a burden like they say.

And nobody, my mom nor nobody

knows how this private burden weights on me.

But at least I had a dad. And he loved me gigantically.

In the picture on my bedroom wall,

holding a little version of me in his arms,

we are in matching baseball caps,

that is a happy man grinning.

And my friends. I am lucky in them.

Myrtle and Annie, they were with me

all the way through.

Myrtle and me were helpful to Annie all we could be

when she had that divorce in second grade,

and then the second divorce too,

in sixth.

And the way Myrtle's family takes drugs is a crime.

Very often she did not even want to go home.

Till her father went to rehab

when we were in eighth grade,

he is in there again now, too.

He promised Myrtle he would make it this time.

Still, she holds her breath.

Me and Annie are sympathetic.

But sympathy won't make her life different.

My friend Jolly got things complicated last year,

Myrtle and Annie rolled their eyes

about her. Jolly couldn't help it. I kept telling them.

It wasn't her fault she was pregnant

before she was old enough to see straight.

It was a dangerous world she got born into

with hardly never a chance for niceness in her life.

But when Myrtle and Annie got cleaning jobs at the church

and got invited into the Jesus club there,

first Myrtle, then Annie,

they acted like Jolly was dirt down beneath them.

Then Jolly ended up a slight hero

so they were wrong about her,

even if they never said so.

But they are still loyal to me for life, and me to them.

We don't have to say it in words, it just is.

It's true the pavement around here is filthy from side to side,

the alleys reek

and they are full of deadly events that could happen any minute.

High school students shoot their classmates

and if you even take one glance at the science of the world

you would want to never get out of bed in the morning,

birds and beasts are going extinct,

the rivers are poison, the fish are dying,

there is dangerous rain.

But I have these friends,

and my mom even took a harder job so I can get out of here

when I'm grown up.

And my hope is strong like an athlete.

Every morning when we walk through the metal detectors

to get into school

I know in my heart it may feel like a day of just waiting in lines

and hearing bells ring

and watching teachers try to keep order

among those wrongdoers in the classes.

But.

It is an important day

of dues-paying so I can go to college and be out of here.

I'll pay.

5.

And I am lucky to have a room of my own,

instead of sleeping on a fold-out

like Annie in her house.

My room is my private territory

complete with my special ceiling design.

My ceiling above my bed is cracked like a tree hanging over,

and last summer when I was restless one rainy day

I painted branches on,

and put a bird nest up there too

and little baby birds peeking out

with their eensy skinny feathers

and their all-mouth look like on a science show.

I used my watercolors from way back in childhood,

my 10th birthday present from the aunts.

The set has six different greens

and enough odd hues and shades

to do branches and a good tree trunk.

I am quite proud of my painting.

Well, my mom came home and saw the wall and ceiling

and her mouth went into shock

as a rent-payer.

"Oh, LaVaughn, look what you did," she says,

"Oh, no," she says, and "Oh, no," again,

while she catches her breath and thinks.

Then she calmed down.

She stood on different spots in my room,

at the corner of my desk,

and by the closet door,

and over by the wastebasket.

She climbed on my chair and took a look up close,

and she laid down on my bed to see it from there,

never saying a word, just shifting around and looking.

At the end of this short tour of my room which is not large

her face got patienter

and she said, "LaVaughn, that's nice,

that's so nice. Oh, LaVaughn, that's real, real nice."

And she says in a whisper,

"Your dad would be proud."

It made the lump come in my throat

that came before lots of times

when I'm wondering how it would feel with his arms around me

like before when I was so little.

Sometimes I think I can almost make the feeling.

And then it disappears.

I tell my mom thanks.

6.

Myrtle and Annie sing their club song for me before gym.

"I gave my heart to Jesus,

God's kingdom will endure.

He gives to me my energy,

Jesus keeps me pure."

Then the chorus goes "Cross your legs for Jesus," and it repeats.

They say it sounds better with guitar and drums.

They are obvious about how unsaved I am.

They have new "JESUS LOVES YOU" shoelaces, bright gold.

We do our warm-ups,

then we go through the volleyball formations,

we holler and huff and jump like we are taught,

and it might look like old times

among Myrtle and Annie and me, but it's not.

"You're missing out on the miracle, LaVaughn,"

says Myrtle, in the showers.

I am not innocent enough to ask what miracle she means.

It is the miracle of being saved by God from being a sinner.

I didn't want to argue.

I imagine there is a God out there, or a Something.

Something to get the whole thing spinning along

way back there before there was anything

to even have a shape to it.

Myrtle and Annie and me went all through this subject before.

But now they have new news.

Myrtle and Annie say all Muslims and Jews and Hindus

and other religions will go to Hell

along with criminals and sexual teenagers

and all tribes of foreign lands

that have not come to Jesus and the Bible

which they say God wrote.

They don't explain how God came out of the sky

and wrote down words. "You just don't get it, LaVaughn."

It is the Joyful Universal Church of Jesus

that tells them these things.

They are right: I don't get it.

I personally would like to know how God let my dad die.

And why hasn't God made Myrtle's father

get well from drugs yet?

That would be a miracle.

Me and Myrtle share a bottle of shampoo like always

and I look back and forth at them

as we dry ourselves and put on our clothes.

With their club coming between our friendship

I want to say, "Yes! I'll be in your club!"

But I don't do it,

it doesn't feel right.

I don't think that is the job of Jesus, to keep me pure.

And I don't mean to be mean to Jesus in my thoughts,

that little baby born in a manger.

But I don't get how he hates so many millions of people

and sends them down to Hell.

So as we are getting dressed

and I run Annie's comb

down the back of her hair like always

for her exactly equal braids she wants,

I am wondering is this the last time I will ever have

Annie's comb in my hand, going down her hair.

I keep my eyes on the back of Annie's head,

bisecting her hair precisely.

And my skin goes shivery for a moment.

I want to join with them

to have it be like the old times we had,

but there's something holds me back.

If there is a God and Jesus,

is my dad in their heaven up there?

And if there isn't,

where is he?

Can he see me?

7.

And then the biggest surprise:

Suddenly here comes Jody back again, changing everything.

He lived here a long time ago, then he left

and now he comes back, an astonishment in the elevator.

When we were little we played

kick-the-can a kazillion times.

We went to each other's messy little birthdays

and spilled ice cream

and I remember like a movie

how I stole his party hat one time,

it was blue and I was grabby.

Jody and me

were the only ones that got punished

when all of us kids on our side of the building

were mean to a person in a wheelchair. Some of the big kids

wheeled her very fast over big gashes in the sidewalk.

Us little ones just watched, but that was bad enough.

My mom was mad. Jody's too.

"You like to stare at people that had bad luck, LaVaughn?

Verna LaVaughn, you like to stare

at that poor woman being tormented?

What else you like to do, LaVaughn? Huh?"

I told her I like to color in coloring books.

She took away every coloring book I had,

and the crayons and markers too

for a whole month. "That will teach you," she said.

She put them away in her closet

and I couldn't color till she took them out again.

Jody was not allowed to ride his bike for a week.

Nobody else got punished.

Jody's mom and my mom taught us cards,

we played Hearts in their apartment and Old Maid.

And Double Solitaire.

Our mothers traded keys, one for each of us,

hanging on a string

so us little ones would have a safe place

to go in emergencies.

Even with self-defense classes in the building

you still need a place to go in danger.

It is a rule of the Tenant Council.

Jody and me each used our keys on strings

once way back then. Trying them out.

He came to our house

when I was just learning to make a peanut butter sandwich.

I made two of them, he ate most of his.

And I used the key in their lock one time.

He showed me his tropical fish in a tank,

he knew the big long names of those bright-colored swimmers.

We traded comic books and never gave them back.

Once Jody and me played cards for 2 days

when it snowed and there was no school.

And then they moved away.

And now they're back again.

And this is such a weird miracle about my little childhood pal:

He is suddenly beautiful.

In the elevator, it's all I can do to say his name.

"Jody?" I say. I steady myself against the elevator wall

in case it is not him. And because he is too gorgeous

to look at head-on.

He doesn't remember me

and then he does. "You were good at kick-the-can," he said.

"Really?" I said.

"Yeah, you had good legs," says this brand-new old person.

"Thanks," I say. "Do you still have fish in a tank?"

I'm amazed at my normal sound,

talking so calm to such beauty.

He could be in movies,

the way the parts of his face go together.

His mouth moves and words come out, Yes,

he still has fish, his hand goes to the elevator button,

I follow it, the wrist, thumb, index finger, a button pushes,

his arm goes back where it was.

My chest is so full of heartbeats it jolts my thinking.

Somewhere he was getting to be a perfect, handsome person

while I was only going through the years.

In the elevator maybe I asked him where he has been,

maybe not.

His face is standing there looking straight into mine,

the shape of his mouth, oh,

I can't imagine I ever saw such a boy before

and yet it is still the face of Jody from back then.

I get out of the elevator at my floor

and I lean on the wall,

my heart too loud for comfort

and my brain not so level either.

8.

I get my whole breath back

by the time my mom comes home.

She is not struck dumb by the news.

She reminds me what I was not paying attention to

when I was a kid, the reason why they left:

Jody's mom moved them away

to try to get Jody a better chance in life.

"That woman, she's exhausted, she's drained,

cleaning dirty houses day in, day out,

Jody's all she's got."

I make comparison with Jody's mom and mine

but it is not the same at all. My mom never

cleaned other people's houses.

She would not live such a beat down life,

she just would not.

"Well, they tried, she couldn't pay that higher rent,

she got farther behind all the time,

and...." My mom plunks her paperwork on the counter,

reaches over and rubs a sponge around the sink,

lets her breath out in a huff.

"...and here they are, back again."

She says in her emphasizing voice:

"She was the first one when your dad died.

The very first one.

She come up here with a casserole,

she brought Jody along,

she stayed with me the whole night."

That is all a fog to me. Maybe I didn't notice him,

so confused as I was.

I'll never know how my mom made it through that time.

"You be nice to Jody, LaVaughn.

They don't have it easy."

So that's the way it is about Jody.

And she's telling me to be nice to him.

Does she not even know what Jody looks like?

I look at her flat as a plate, no expression.

I say Sure, I'll do that.

Jody's back just in time to start the new school year.

My heart is clunking.

Copyright © 2001 by Virginia Euwer Wolff

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

chrissycmw, April 17, 2014 (view all comments by chrissycmw)
Although she's at that age that she could be my grandma, Virginia Euwer Wolff really understands youth, and the process of reaching reconciliation and true understanding with ourselves. In her first book of the trilogy, Make Lemonade, La Vaughn is 14, living with her mother (her dad died when she was a baby) who supports her decision to go to college. In True Believer her mother is given a higher paying job. She reminds her that she's doing this for her, for her big dreams. La Vaughn’s dreams are ones we may all have, and the journey they take her on isn’t without rejection, disappointment, and suspense. This book is cleverly split into four sections to indicate a bump in the road or a stepping stone. I really enjoyed how this was written in its entirety. Wolff is consistent with her ‘stream of consciousness’ style. Though simple to read and understand, her language draws you in with its subtle curiosity�"as the reader, you want to discover what La Vaughn is discovering, and ask the questions she’s asking herself. Again, though the language is simple, Wolff is very successful in her characterization and detail. She creates characters that pose opposition, and ones that you can easily relate with the teens you may have known in high school. La Vaughn, though hurt by an obstacle that presents itself later on, faces the choice to give up everything or continue forward. I was pleased by the ending, but am hooked! I can’t wait to get my hands on the last book of the trilogy.
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comment, January 28, 2010 (view all comments by comment)
best book i've read in a long time.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780689852886
Author:
Wolff, Virginia Euwer
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Friendship
Subject:
Family - Multigenerational
Subject:
Love & Romance
Subject:
Conduct of life
Subject:
Poor
Subject:
Single-parent families
Subject:
Children s-Reference Family and Genealogy
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st Simon Pulse ed.
Edition Description:
B102
Series:
Make Lemonade Trilogy
Series Volume:
3
Publication Date:
October 2002
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 7
Language:
English
Illustrations:
f/c cvr
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 8.05 oz
Age Level:
13-17

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Related Subjects


Children's » Awards » Michael L. Printz Award Winners
Children's » General
Children's » Reference » Family and Genealogy
Young Adult » Fiction » Social Issues » Homelessness and Poverty
Young Adult » Fiction » Social Issues » Violence
Young Adult » General

True Believer Used Trade Paper
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Product details 272 pages Simon Pulse - English 9780689852886 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Wolff has surpassed herself with this sequel [to Make Lemonade]....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."
"Review" by , "[P]owerful....Transcendent, raw, and fiercely optimistic....A natural for reader's theater, this will capture even reluctant readers."
"Review" by , "When Wolff writes a book, it's an event. When she revisits LaVaughn, as she does in True Believer, it is a prodigious gift....Wolff unerringly reveals the inner depths of her heroine....[A] coming-of-age story with both bite and heart, which poses more questions than it answers but never runs out of hope."
"Review" by , "[A] heartbreaking story, truthful in its pain but buoyed by LaVaughn's resilient spirit and by a redemptive and earned ending."
"Review" by , "[O]ffers readers insights into the institutions and social relationships that shape the lives of inner-city teens....Though there's a heap of teen problems here, Wolff is adroit at expressing both the comic and tragic feelings of her young protagonist....A solid addition for high school and young adult collections."
"Review" by , "Wolff writes in blank verse, and as Verna tells her story, the reader moves in lockstep with her wherever she goes, laughing and crying, celebrating and worrying, wondering and deciding. It is an outstanding continuing portrait of Verna LaVaughn."
"Review" by , "Readers, whether they share LaVaughn's material struggles or not, will get right into her life and see how much courage she and her mother have to hope for a better life, and to work diligently to realize that hope."
"Review" by , "True Believer explores issues relevant to today's teens in an honest and sensitive manner. Virginia Euwer Wolff gives readers a moving, beautifully written poignant story, well worth the eight year wait — a story that makes us true believers in LaVaughn and in the tenacity and resiliency of her spirit."
"Synopsis" by , In this second novel of Wolff's Make Lemonade trilogy, 15-year old Verna LaVaughn is visited by Jody, a boy she knew as a child who comes back to the housing project where she lives. Jody behaves as if he's in love with her, but Jody is wrestling with questions of his own identity.
"Synopsis" by , LaVaughn is fifteen now, and she's still fiercely determined to go to college. But that's the only thing she's sure about. Loyalty to her father bubbles up as her mother grows closer to a new man. The two girls she used to do everything with have chosen a path LaVaughn wants no part of. And then there's Jody. LaVaughn can't believe how gorgeous he is...or how confusing. He acts like he's in love with her, but is he?
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