Book: True Believer

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True Believer

Author: Virginia Euwer Wolff
Publisher: Atheneum
We have a multitude of obstacles to overcome here. We’ll begin.

When LaVaughn was little, the obstacles in her life didn’t seem so bad. If she had a fight with Myrtle or Annie, it would never last long. If she was mad at her mother, they made up by bedtime. School was simple. Boys were buddies. Everything made sense.

But LaVaughn is fifteen and the obstacles aren’t going away anymore. Big questions separate her from her friends. Her mother is distracted by a new man. School could slip away from her so easily. And the boy who’s a miracle in her life acts just as if he’s in love with her. Only he’s not in love with her.

Returning to the characters and language she explored so profoundly in Make Lemonade, Virginia Euwer Wolff rises to the occasion in this astonishing second of three novels about LaVaughn, her family, and her community.


At 15, LaVaughn already knows that life is hard and that getting ahead takes a strong mind and an even stronger will. Surrounded by poverty and violence, she strives every day not to be just another inner-city statistic: “My hope is strong like an athlete. Every morning when we walk through the metal detectors to get into school … it is an important day of dues-paying so I can go to college and be out of here.” Last year when she babysat for Jolly, a young unwed mother, she saw firsthand how an unplanned pregnancy can diminish options. So she ignores the boys, studies hard, and hopes it will all be enough to get her into college. Then Jody moves back into the neighborhood. Once LaVaughn’s childhood friend, Jody is now “suddenly beautiful… He could be in movies the way the parts of his face go together.” If LaVaughn’s choices were difficult before Jody, now they’re almost impossible. What LaVaughn doesn’t know is that Jody has difficult decisions of his own to make—decisions that could turn her carefully ordered world upside down.

The second novel in a proposed trilogy, True Believer picks up where the acclaimed Make Lemonade left off. Virginia Euwer Wolff’s verse-prose is as sumptuous as ever, and her descriptions of LaVaughn’s day-to-day life and feelings are sympathetic and achingly real. Readers will be eager to see where LaVaughn’s choices take her in Wolff’s next installment. (Ages 13 and older) —Jennifer Hubert

Barnes and Noble

Written in poignant and powerful blank verse, this National Book Award winner from Virginia Euwer Wolffe revisits the characters Wolffe first introduced in Make Lemonade. Now, LaVaughn, a 15-year-old teen who’s determined to break free from her constricting inner city neighborhood, is starting tenth grade…and grappling with the distractions of first love, drifting apart from her lifelong friends, and realizing her intense desire to go to college.

Living with her single mother amid poverty and violence, LaVaughn knows that the only way to “make it” is to escape to college. And to get there, she studies hard, heeds her mother’s warnings, and tries to be strong. Several teachers recognize promise in LaVaughn, and she is placed in a more advanced science class, as well as an after-school program to improve her speech. She also gets a job at a children’s hospital, which ultimately instills in her a dream of becoming a nurse.

LaVaughn is growing up—and along the way, she experiences a life-altering change when a boy named Jody moves back into her neighborhood. Once LaVaughn’s childhood pal, Jody is now “suddenly beautiful”—and LaVaughn can’t stop thinking about him. However, her all-consuming love is unrequited because Jody is experiencing some painful changes himself—and his actions will affect LaVaughn in many powerful ways.

The second novel in a proposed trilogy, True Believer is both a brilliant coming-of-age story and a demonstration of one young woman’s courage to succeed against the odds. Both heartbreaking and redemptive, LaVaughn’s story is a testament to readers that they should never lose hope—or stop dreaming. A richly developed character whom readers will both admire and empathize with, LaVaughn thrives against the odds; she lives the words her teacher instructs her class to repeat: “We will rise to the occasion, which is life.” (Jamie Levine)

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