Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Review: This Full House

This Full House by Virginia Euwer Wolff. (Grades 9+)

LaVaughn dreams of escaping her poor, inner-city neighborhood and going to college to become a doctor. It's a dream she's been working towards since she was 14 and she answered an ad for a babysitter to save up money for college. When she answered that ad, she met teen mom Jolly and her two young kids and LaVaughn's life changed forever.

Now LaVaughn is a senior in high school and her goal is coming ever closer. She's been attending a Summer Science program and now she's accepted into a Women in the Medical Sciences group. LaVaughn knows that it's her ticket to good recommendations, to knowledge, to college. But when her LaVaughn discovers something about her teacher, she has to make a decision. Is she doing the right thing? Could this jeopardize her entire future?

Let me paint you a picture:

I'm 11 or 12 years old and we go to the Middletown branch of the Louisville Free Public Library. I browse the tiny YA section (I think it was only one bookcase and I'm certain it wasn't called Young Adult at the time). And I pick out the book Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff.

Later, I bring the book along when we go to my grandparents' house to have dinner. I am rarely without a book because I generally prefer to sit and read whenever I have a choice. There, sitting on my grandparents' couch, I devour much (if not all) of the book. Its verse format is unlike anything I've read before. And the story of LaVaughn and Jolly and Jeremy and Jilly sticks with me.

Years later, I take a YA Lit course in college where we read Make Lemonade and the National Book Award-winning sequel True Believer. It's then that I learn that this book is the second in a trilogy... only the third book has never come out.

Until now.

So, when I tell you that I have been waiting years for this third book in the Make Lemonade trilogy to come out, you know exactly what I mean. I've loved LaVaughn and her story since I was a young adult myself and I was so excited to see that the third book was finally available.

I highly recommend that you read Make Lemonade and True Believer before you tackle this one.

This Full House is about LaVaughn taking the next step in her journey. I have to say that a major plot point in the book felt like a bit of a stretch, but I will also say that I love LaVaughn so much that I don't care. LaVaughn definitely qualifies as one of my best literary friends. I will suspend my disbelief to the max just to spend some more time with her. I found it to be a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, but I am kind of fangirly about these books so you might want to take this with a grain of salt.

And the writing! I kept flagging passages to share, but this review is already really long, so I'll just share one. Or two. Um.. or three.

LaVaughn's describing a statue she sees at the art museum:

Their naked bodies were sitting down
and they were the quietest pair of people in love
I ever saw.
You couldn't not stop and stare
at these huge connected bodies.
Bronze, made of tin and copper taken from the earth,
made into human curves and muscles and lips.
And I looked through her bent leg
almost but not quite touching his bent leg,
the pyramid shape of air under their knees,
and I was in love with them.
(pp 73-74)

On wondering about love:

To have a boy find you like a treasure
he has been hunting for.
What would that feel like?
(pg 104)

And her love of science:

Through a door I see the genetic analyzer
in its clean, isolated room,
a machine that would make Gregor Mendel's heart jounce.
I have read about this invention
and I recognize it 30 feet away,
a throne of smartness that looks like a refrigerator.
(Sometimes couldn't you just jump up and down
to celebrate electricity? I could.)
(pg 236)

If you've got a teen who loves novels in verse, hand them this trilogy. NOW.