AUS / UK edition


Faber Children's Classics


July 2005


$14.95 AU


172p pb


ISBN: 978-0571202072


fp May 1993

Book 1 of trilogy


followed by True Believer and This Full House

US edition

Henry Holt and Company


May 2006


$7.99 US


208p pb


ISBN: 978-0805080704

Make Lemonade: a novel

Virginia Euwer Wolff

from the book...

LaVaughn needed a part-time job. Something she could do after school to help earn money for college. Jolly needed a babysitter. Someone she could trust with two kids while she worked the evening shift.


It didn't matter that LaVaughn was fourteen-years-old - only three years younger than Jolly.


It didn't matter that Jolly didn't have a husband - or a mom and dad. Because LaVaughn gives Jolly and her two babies more love and understanding than should be possible for a fourteen-year-old. Because if she doesn't no one else will.

If you have read this verse novel and would like to share your opinion of it with other readers please send your review or comments to YARR-A

I read Make Lemonade this summer it was really good. I liked it because it talks about what real teenagers go through. I think Virginia Euwer Wolff is a very good writer.

Tanya, age 15, U.S.A.

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff is a slightly shocking verse novel about a fourteen year old girl – LaVaughn – and her encounter with the young seventeen-year-old mother of two, Jolly. LaVaughn, looking for a job to raise funds for college, applies for the babysitting job that Jolly advertised. She gets the job – no one else even looked at the ad. Jolly lives in a rundown apartment. Its floors are dirty, its walls are cracked, and Jolly’s two kids, Jilly and Jeremy, aren’t very well cared for. It’s a hard life for Jilly, who works at low rates. As the story continues, Jolly’s situation gets worse and worse. LaVaughn is determined to help her out though, even when Jolly can no longer pay her for her hours.

The story plays out some of the harsher realities of life, thing which some people will never get to know about. Living in the poorest parts of town, not being able to afford basics such as toilet paper, being fired by a sexually abusive boss – these are all things which Jolly suffers from. The story climaxes very well, although the ending is fairly abrupt. The story shows very well how determination can pay off in some cases. I’d recommend this book for people aged thirteen to eighteen, and I rate it eight out of ten.

Jesse, Year 10, Canberra, Australia

Make Lemonade is the story of LaVaughn, a girl who baby-sits for a young mother named Jolly, and what it is like to live in almost absolute poverty and never giving up. Jolly is 17 but already she has 2 kids, Jeremy and Jilly; she lives by herself in a bad neighbourhood, and has a low-paying job with a sleazy boss. LaVaughn is 14, she finds a small, crumpled ad for a babysitter and goes to investigate; though it doesn’t pay much she takes the job because the family needs her, even after her pay stops she keeps coming back to help.

This is a very good book, which gives a good insight into a world of poverty, loneliness, and friendship. The characters are very realistic and could be an accurate portrayal of anyone you meet. When I saw this book I originally thought that it wouldn’t be that great, but as I began to read it I quickly changed my mind. 

Virginia is a talented author who has succeeded in creating a book that is imaginative but realistic. I think that this novel is exceptionally well suited to its target audience of young adults but anyone who enjoys a good read would like it as well.

Eian, Year 10, Canberra, Australia

La Vaughn, Jolly, Jeremy and Jilly. All, whether they know it yet or not are stuck in a place they don’t want to be. La Vaughn was born into this bad neighbourhood and wants to get out, through college, but for this she needs money, and for this she needs a job. La Vaughn finds a job as a babysitter, minding Jilly and Jeremy, two young kids with fluids leaking out of everywhere. Jolly their mum is young and struggling to keep her job. 

Make Lemonade is a beautiful book that showcases Virginia Euwer Wolff’s flamboyant yet simplistic verse and brings to life characters and stories which will leave you hooked. The book fails to give the story any location and the people any race, but this just leaves you making presumptions, making the story more realistic and universal. 

The genre of the book is realistic, teen issues. The book is suitable for readers over 13. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read books with real meaning and intrigue. If you enjoy Make Lemonade I would suggest that you read the equally beautiful True Believer the second in the trilogy, with the third This Full House.

Shuchita, age 15, Canberra, Australia

Make Lemonade is the story about a teenage girl named Verna LaVaughn. She lives with her mother who works all day to support them. She has been brought up in a violent, rough and poor neighbourhood and believes that the only way she can escape this life and become something, is to go to college. To start saving for her tuition fees, LaVaughn baby sits for a seventeen year old single mother named Jolly. Jolly has two children (Jeremy and Jilly), a low income job, no family, and her house is a mess. As LaVaughn baby sits she can see how Jolly’s life is falling apart and is determined to help, even when Jolly can’t afford to pay her anymore.

The book is divided into four parts, which is like the author separated it into stages of improvement. In the story it mentions that LaVaughn’s grammar stinks, and since it’s written from her perspective the language used is very improper with slang verses. The way that the words are written looks like poetry, and it is written like one long string of thoughts or talking without any pauses.

This book is dedicated ‘to young mothers’ and is a realistic account of the trials and struggles they go through. The title of the book is from the saying ‘If life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. This is the positive outlook that LaVaughn has; where no matter what you’re dealt you can make something out of it. Make Lemonade’s sequel is True Believer, and the third in the trilogy is This Full House. I would recommend this book for almost anyone aged around 12 and up. It’s a meaningful story and a good realistic account of what that hard kind of life is like.

Amy, Year 10, Canberra, Australia

Make Lemonade is the first in a series of three books written by Virginia Euwer Wolff. It is told from the point of LaVaughn, a fourteen year old girl, searching for a part time job to pay for her college fund and escape the ghetto like neighborhood she lives in. She is intrigued by a babysitting job that other classmates searching for jobs ignored. There she meets Jolly, a seventeen year old mother of two infants struggling to survive without the aid of welfare. Jolly pays LaVaughn for her baby sitting and LaVaughn although only 14 acts as a mother for Jolly and her children. Right from the start you get the feeling LaVaughn is very mature for her age with a sense to do what is right as well as do anything to escape from ending up like Jolly while Jolly on the other hand is very believable as the struggling uneducated single mum; she is in fact more of a child than LaVaughn is.

I found Make Lemonade an interesting read; its title is quirky as it symbolises many things throughout the book. This book also sheds light on issues of crime, poverty as well as other issues most people would like to avoid; it just goes to show that even in rich countries underneath the sugar-coated images of good lifestyle and beliefs of a better life, lies a dark underbelly of crumbling buildings, trashed streets, drugs, teen pregnancies and gang wars. I would recommend Make Lemonade to older readers to get the most out of this thought provoking book whether they are new to reading verse novels or already fans of the genre.

Lauren, Year 10,  Canberra, Australia

Make Lemonade is a verse novel by Virginia Euwer Wolff. It faces extreme yet subtle teen issues. Although many teenagers may not find themselves in the exact situation, it’s very easy to put yourself in the main characters shoes, because it could happen.

LaVaughn is a 14-year-old girl who is growing up in a rough neighbourhood. As well as battling normal adolescent issues, LaVaughn is under pressure from her mother – who was at first sceptical – to be the first person in her family to attend college. LaVaughn must also earn most of her college fund, as her mother can’t afford the entire fee, so she sets out to find a job. Not wanting a summer job like painting houses, LaVaughn immediately accepts a job offer on the notice board at school, asking for a babysitter to help out after school.

LaVaughn makes her way to an even rougher part of her town, and arrives at the house of Jolly. Jolly – who is only 17 herself – has two children, and is trying to hold down a job with a sleazy boss while raising her family and keeping her tiny apartment in order. She needs all the help she can get!

LaVaughn, who hesitantly accepts the job, begins helping Jolly any way she can. She tries cleaning the house, and keeping the baby settled while teaching the older child – a toddler – basic numbers and letter, and how to talk and be courteous. Although her mother and friends are disapproving, LaVaughn keeps returning to Jolly’s house, and they soon begin to grow close.

Jolly becomes practically reliant on LaVaughn, and her grades start to slip. Teachers are noticing that LaVaughn is less attentive in class, and everyone around her is discouraging her from returning to Jolly’s house. 

LaVaughn continues to help Jolly, even when Jolly can no longer afford to pay her, and after a fight – during which a lot is revealed – LaVaughn slowly begins to discover what happened in Jolly’s past and finally helps Jolly see that she needs to get back on her feet. If not for herself, then for her children.

The end of Make Lemonade is perfect; it’s happy without being clichéd. It doesn’t quite draw the book to an end, but rather leaves the next instalment open to your imagination, while still giving enough information so you could stop reading the series without being disappointed.

Make Lemonade is amazing. It’s a short novel, under 200 pages, which definitely suits the story as it’s very much about having to grow up fast, and doing so for someone else. The fact that it is a short novel means that the storyline moves along quite fast, perfectly complementing the speed at which the characters grow up. 

It has limited dialogue, relying mainly on situation and other character’s actions to entice emotions from the reader. The layout of the verses isn’t particularly clever or intriguing, but I think the story is enhanced by the structure of the verses as it flows better when read.

The characters are so real that, although the storyline may not be suited to the lifestyle that a lot of us have, you find yourself thinking about how you would have reacted to everything LaVaughn has to cope with. You sympathise as she does, get angry as she does, get angry at what she does, feel her pressure, understand her reactions and mature as she does. It also shows that maybe people who are worse off than you aren’t in that situation because they’re lazy or couldn’t be bothered. Sometimes it’s not their fault.

The other characters alongside LaVaughn – her overbearing mother, Jolly’s unintentionally problematic children, concerned teachers and friends, and even anonymous characters such as Jolly’s boyfriend and employer – play pivotal roles in the developing story. They each contribute to the plot, and all – sometimes indirectly – add to Make Lemonade.

Make Lemonade is very much for teenagers, although I can see many adults enjoying it and possibly reminiscing on childhood memories. I would say that younger teenagers could read it, although I think a lot of meaning would be lost on them if they couldn’t empathise with LaVaughn. You really need to see the situation as you would see it, rather than through LaVaughn’s eyes.

Make Lemonade is the first book by Virginia Euwer Wolff, or indeed the first verse novel, that I’ve read. I think she’s an exceptional author, writing realistically about issues and challenges faced by many young people today. She captured a brilliant teenage girl in LaVaughn, giving her a very adolescent view on things, while still giving her the maturity to analyse her situation and find the best solution. I am definitely going to read the entire Make Lemonade trilogy, and I look forward to more books from Virginia Euwer Wolff. I give Make Lemonade 10/10.

Kirra, Year 10, Canberra, Australia

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff is the first verse novel in a series of three, and precedes True Believer.  It follows La Vaughn’s story as she does her best to do all she can to reach college.  She accepts a job babysitting for a 17 year old girl called Jolly, who has two children - Jeremy and Jilly.  Jolly lives in a bad neighbourhood, as does La Vaughn, and from the description of her flat and the surrounding area, you can really feel the need of the characters to make something better out of their situations.  Jolly goes through hard times during the novel, and La Vaughn does her best to help her.   La Vaughn doesn’t go without her share of problems though.  Her grades begin to slip as she spends more and more time looking after Jeremy and Jilly, and less and less time on her homework.  When it gets to the point when Jolly cannot afford to pay La Vaughn, it raises the question of which is worse: not helping where she is needed, or working for free and sacrificing the money that is meant to go into her account to help her reach college.  Together, the characters work through whatever problems are thrown at them, and through the solutions to these problems, learn important lessons that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Make Lemonade had me hooked from the very beginning.  It has a very strong opening paragraph that captured my attention as soon as I opened the book.  Following on from this, the main plot of La Vaughn getting a job, was immediately set up.  The book sustained my interest to the very end with things constantly happening.

The setting was established early on in the first few pages, and the way it was described, I could really feel what it would be like to be in La Vaughn’s neighbourhood.  This is the same with the characters.  They are described so well that you know the depths of their personality, but their appearance is left open to your imagination most of the time.  I feel that this lets you bond with the characters more because in a way, you are making them your own.

The dialogue seemed really realistic to the living situation that La Vaughn is in.  You can tell that most of the characters in the book haven’t had a proper education.  Rather than distract you from what is going on, the slang and incorrect grammar really makes you feel as if the events are actually happening, rather than just being read about.  It subtly makes the point that they aren’t as well off as other people, but still allows you to read without the purposeful errors becoming an issue in the enjoyment of the novel.  There was a reasonable vocabulary used.  It was wide enough to be able to sufficiently express all that went on, but still limited to fit in with La Vaughn’s upbringing.

The main issue raised in this novel is that of teenage mothers and the hardships that many of them must endure.  These hardships are shared mostly through La Vaughn, as she discovers what Jolly has to do each and every day.

I really liked the way this verse novel was structured.  It managed to keep its format without just being a series of poems, or a bunch of sentences with forced breaks every few words.  The words flow freely and aren’t restricted by fitting the format.  The length and way the paragraphs are written are straight to the point, making it easy to read.  It also stayed within dealing with issues appropriate to its intended age group of mid to late teens.

Overall, I really liked this book, and thought it gave a very in depth look at what the reality is for a lot of teenagers out there.  It made me feel sad when things went wrong, and happy as they celebrated their successes.  In my opinion, a novel which can stir up your emotions like this is well worth a read.  I give it 9/10.

Sarah, Year 10, Canberra, Australia

I read this book during the summer and I like it very much because its about single mothers and what they go through. Its easy to understand and it makes you read it from the beginning till the end. This is a very good book and I enjoyed reading it.

Yadira, USA

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