Jolly is 17 years old and has two children from two absent fathers. She can't cope and so advertises for a babysitter. Verna LaVaughn replies to the advertisement and takes the first steps towards building her own future. Jolly, slowly, follows in her footsteps.
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(197mm x 127mm x 13mm)
Faber & Faber
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
Wolff follows her rich portrait of a gifted young musician (The Mozart Season, 1991, ALA Notable) with a spare, beautifully crafted depiction of a 14-year-old whose goal of escaping poverty is challenged by friendship with a single teenage mother. With the support of her widowed mom, who's always made ends meet, LaVaughn sets her sights on college but knows she'll have to come up with the money herself. Taking a job earing for Jolly's babies while Jolly works, she's soon enmeshed in the young woman's problems - especially after Jolly is fired for spurning a harassing boss. Deeply concerned for the feckless, near-illiterate 17-year-old's welfare, LaVaughn is tempted to give her the money she's saved; yet (as marvelously encapsulated in LaVaughn's internal debate) she makes the tough decision that "That won't help...I feel very mixed but my eyes stay steady." With difficulty (Jolly's too proud to ask for welfare and fears losing her children), she persuades her to enter a high-school program for young mothers. It's best for both - Jolly begins to "take hold" of her life - but bittersweet: while LaVaughn's grades go back up, she must relinquish her beloved charges. LaVaughn's narrative - brief, sometimes ungrammatical sentences in uneven lines, like verse - is in a credible teenage voice suited to readers like Jolly herself; yet it has the economy and subtlety of poetry. These girls could be from more than one ethnic group and almost any inner city - the setting is deliberately vague; but their troubles - explored in exquisite specificity - are universal. Hopeful - and powerfully moving. (Kirkus Reviews)
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