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On my quest to find interesting reads for KS3/4 I've been directd to the wonderful 'Make Lemonade' by Virginia Euwer Wolff. The story is written from the perspective of LaVaughn, a 14 year old American girl with a positive work ethic and aspirations of paying her own way through college. Her mother is a strong role model, always ensuring that LaVaughn's school work comes first and everything else second. As such LaVaughn decides to supplement her college funds by working and finds an ad for babysitter. This is where she tumbles into the world of Jolly, a 17 year old working in a factory and supporting her 2 young children whilst trying to hold her world together. She's uneducated and overwhelmed with no family to speak of and no men to lay claim to her children, and so two very different worlds momentarily weave together before seperating on their different journeys.
This little gem of a book has a number of wonderful elements to it. The two characters are a complete contrast to one another and are on completely different tracks in their lives. It is very easy to fob Jolly off for getting pregnant young, not staying school and making a hash job of her life. Of course in contrast LaVaughn is already wise beyond her years with a plan for college and all she needs to achieve it. Yet they both learn something from each other - LaVaughn learns about reality and how an individual governs their life by the decisions they make, and Jolly learns more than a thing or two about turning her life around. You also have the personailities of the two young children and the whole text is written in the colloquial manner in which LaVaugh speaks and so spoken aloud you can hear her accent and the reasons that teachers tell her she needs to work on her grammer!
The text is also written in a verse style which sometimes feels a little disjointed - it all most feels like a reflection of LaVaughn's litererary weaknesses in class and also a reflection on Jolly's inability to read/write to a great degree. It also makes it quite a nippy read to get through with lots of interesting situations and instances that cause the characters to grow and change the image we make of each character in our minds. It proves that you truely can't 'judge a book by it's cover' and it is easy to jump to conclusions about a person because of their circumstance.
All in all I found this to be an enjoyable read which had the capacity to teach adults and teenagers about their perceptions of people and the ways in which a teenages lives can take many different paths. The pressures of teen pregnancy, the working world and cross between being mature and growing up, as well as finding time to be a kid are evident in this little gem on a novel.