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Make Lemonade #1

Make Lemonade

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An award-winning novel about growing up and making choices.

Virginia Euwer Wolff's groundbreaking novel, written in free verse, tells the story of fourteen-year-old LaVaughn, who is determined to go to college—she just needs the money to get there.

When she answers a babysitting ad, LaVaughn meets Jolly, a seventeen-year-old single mother with two kids by different fathers. As she helps Jolly make lemonade out of the lemons her life has given her, LaVaughn learns some lessons outside the classroom.

200 pages, Paperback

First published May 15, 1993

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About the author

Virginia Euwer Wolff

14 books148 followers
On August 25th, Virginia Euwer Wolff was born in Portland, Oregon. Her family lived on an apple and pear orchard near Mount Hood. Her father died when she was five years old and she admits her childhood was pretty messed up, but she held things together with her violin. She graduated from Smith College. She raised a son and daughter before going back to teaching high school English.
She was almost fifty years old when she started writing children books. Virginia thought she might have one or two good books in her before the end but that was proven wrong. Today, she is no longer teaching, but writes full-time.

When Wolff was asked why she writes for kids and not grown-ups, She responded, "Because I don't think I have a handle on how to write for grown-ups. The grown-up publishing world is so fraught with one-upsmanship, scorn and snobbery. I did write an adult novel. Thank goodness it went out of print. I think we kids' authors still start out with hope every morning. We honor our audience."

Ms. Wolff has received many awards for her works, which include the Golden Kite Award for Fiction for her book Make Lemonade, the ALA Notable Book for Children for The Mozart Season and many, many others.


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5 stars
2,641 (24%)
4 stars
3,674 (34%)
3 stars
3,112 (29%)
2 stars
966 (9%)
1 star
318 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,415 reviews
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,978 reviews1,989 followers
November 6, 2012
Rating: 4* of five

The Book Description: Virginia Euwer Wolff's groundbreaking novel, written in free verse, tells the story of fourteen-year-old LaVaughn, who is determined to go to college--she just needs the money to get there. When she answers a babysitting ad, LaVaughn meets Jolly, a seventeen-year-old single mother with two kids by different fathers. As she helps Jolly make lemonade out of the lemons her life has given her, LaVaughn learns some lessons outside the classroom. With two kids hanging in the balance, they need to make the best out of life -- and they can only do it for themselves and each other.

My Review: Okay. Brace yourselves. This is a YA novel written in a teenaged girl's voice in free verse. What does this strongly imply I am about to do? Rant and invectivize and holler, right? As a rule, a safe bet.

Rule, meet exception.

I love LaVaughn and Jolly and their weird, codependent growing up. I am impressed by the genuineness of all the various lovings going on through the book. I am even overlooking the free-verse affectation. It's totally unnecessary to tell this story in any kind of verse, but whatever. LaVaughn's first person voice is poignantly like that of other young women I've known as they grew up, and makes me mist over a little bit.

Quote me on that and I will swear an oath on a stack of Bibles that you're lying.

The events that LaVaughn narrates remind me of my many attempts to save others. White knight, in more ways than one, rides in and saves the day...then poof you're invisible when things go right. It's like being a parent!

It IS being a parent. And that both sucks and blows. But it's also, in a weird masochistic way, the best feeling of all, because there is one fewer roadblock in someone else's path through life because you, O Savior Complex Haver, gave in and did what your warped sense of self insists is right.

Problem is...that warp is there because, more often than not, you ARE right.

La Vaughn's in for a long long haul. But she also gets something big in return, something not always obvious at the moment, and often not until a lot of life has passed beneath one's eyes. She gets to know in her heart that at least a few people had one less rock to carry, one more reason to smile, one small moment of being, if not feeling, cared about and for, because she lifted, carried, cared, smiled.

Most days that's enough. Come hear her tell about it. It's a good story.
Profile Image for Jami.
393 reviews47 followers
December 15, 2012
This was a very powerful book for me. It's a novel told in a free verse style, and I wondered if that would bother me. I soon realized, though, that the verse style made the story more powerful. Even though it reads very easily as a novel, it allowed the author to place subtle emphasis on certain words and phrases. I loved it!

Make Lemonade is the story of 14-year-old LaVaughn who befriends Jolly, 17-year-old mother of two, when she answers Jolly's ad for a babysitter. It's easy for her to judge Jolly and the situation she got herself in, but when LaVaughn gets to know more about Jolly, she begins to understand that there is more to Jolly than she first realized.

While the story, as seen through LaVaughn's eyes, appears to be about Jolly and her transition into a person who "takes hold," the underlying story is all about LaVaughn. We see her change and develop as she comes to love and care for not just Jolly's children, but Jolly herself. The relationships she builds gives her new perspective and understanding into the world outside herself.

The story was beautifully told, and I'm eager to read the next book.
Profile Image for Cyndi.
2,340 reviews101 followers
February 20, 2017
This is one of the best YA books I have ever read!!! It tells the story of a young girl in the poorer neighborhoods in NYC who answers an ad to babysit for two young children. The mother is only 17. The characters in this book are courageous and well developed. It is an amazing read and should be on the reading list of every middle school in the world!!
Profile Image for Heather.
100 reviews43 followers
November 15, 2012
Wow. This book has been sitting on the bookshelf in my classroom for 8 years, but I only now had the pleasure of reading it.

I loved it.

It has symbolism, poetic format, imagery, philosophical/political issues regarding teenage moms and welfare, and two emotionally strong, female protagonists. Two teenage girls - one a mom, the other her children's babysitter-become friends and develop their self-esteem and strength together.

It gripped my heart at the end, there. Phew. Wasn't prepared for those tears at all.

I will be recommending this tomorrow in class.

Profile Image for Sarah.
51 reviews
February 17, 2009
Fourteen-year-old LaVaughn answers an ad for an after-school babysitting job that turns out to be life-changing. She cares for the two young children of 17-year-old Jolly, who works second shift at a factory and whose life is a mess. When Jolly gets fired, LaVaughn babysits for free during Jolly's job search. The book is beautiful to read with a poetic style that defies rules and expectations, and tells a provoking story that challenges the reader's assumptions about poverty, teen pregnancy, and life choices.

This book jerked me out of my comfort zone, but it did not sweep me away to a better place like the plot-driven escapist books I enjoy reading. I didn't sympathize with main character, LaVaughn. She seems too perfect, inhumanly perfect, with no endearing faults. Her only real fault (and it is not endearing) is a tendency to judge others. I found this book depressing, but the writing is beautiful and the story poses some worthwhile questions.
Profile Image for Bri.
41 reviews18 followers
June 12, 2008
This book is about how a mom(Jolly) who's seventeen and has two kids, is helped by thirteen-year-old LaVaughn, and she turns out to be one of the most important assets in Jolly's life. This book kind of tells you about the things that Jolly went through, but it's mostly talking about the life-changing events that went on in Jolly's household.
This book was very serious, and I'm not the serious type, but I have to say, this book was great. It's very focused on the topic that the book is about. A lot of moments in this book were very good.
There was one part of Make Lemonade that really cuaght my eye.That was when Jolly did everything she could to save her baby, Jillie. She did CPR and mouth-to-mouth all the way untill the ambulance came. I think that is truly showing love for her baby, even though she's only seventeen.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Maggie.
519 reviews49 followers
April 10, 2013
5 stars not just because it's excellent ... because it is ... but because Wolff really was at the leading edge of what has become a delightful genre with all kinds of wonderful possibilities--the novel in verse. I find it interesting that Wolff knew instinctively that this style of writing (which didn't even have a name at the time) would be the perfect format to address bright but struggling readers. Telescoped ideas and emotions, viscerally expressed themes; that's what this genre does best, and the best novels in verse published today are still those that compress a lot of meaning into surprisingly few words.
Profile Image for J L's Bibliomania.
377 reviews10 followers
October 2, 2016
While a nice enough story about resilience, Make Lemonade confirmed that I just don't "get" the whole novel in free verse phenomenon.

Sometimes limits, such as the compressed length of a short story, or the structured poetry of Shakespeare's plays lead to increased creativity on the part of the author. As I have for the other verse novels I've read I felt like the poetry in Make Lemonade led to lack of complexity in characterization and material closer to a short story than a "novel".
Profile Image for Savannah (forest_reader).
645 reviews41 followers
March 9, 2020
This book tells the story of LaVaughn babysitting for a teenage mom with two kids, and helping her land on her feet after she is fired. All the characters in this book seem real and they’re easy to connect to. I liked the free verse format and I felt like it added to LaVaughn’s character voice. I gave this book only three stars because I felt some emotional impact was missing. Sure, it was sad and hopeful, but I wanted to feel more. Perhaps I didn’t because it ends so abruptly (though I guess the ending was more realistic to life), or LaVaughn and Jolly’s relationship never really progressed to friendship, or it felt more like a snapshot of life rather than a well-constructed story. But it was still a good read, and I’d recommend it to any middle grader, teen, or even adult—it serves as a great window or mirror to being a teen mom.
Profile Image for E.B. Roshan.
Author 8 books67 followers
April 20, 2021
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. LaVaughn, the narrator, was delightful—I’d be proud to have a daughter like her. Her compassion, good sense, and thoughtful, poetic observations really made the book.

My only complaint was that the kids (the young kids, I mean) both seemed too old for their ages...the two year old read like four, the baby like two. But that’s a minor bobble.

All in all, a moving, heartwarming story of friendship and family strength.
Profile Image for Kelsey C.
27 reviews1 follower
November 20, 2019
We all need help sometimes, but 17-year-old jolly requires a little more help than the rest of us. Up knee-deep in problems jolly is desperately looking for a babysitter so she can try to get her life back on track. 14-year-old livan is looking for money to keep and store for collage. She just happened to find her solution waiting for her a babysitting job. She meets the mess of the family and decided to help Jolly for the better of her two kids.
I thought the book was good. The language was interesting and a little confusing. But I would suggest it to fellow poetry lovers.
Profile Image for Jojo.
25 reviews2 followers
November 21, 2019
Make lemonade was a really amazing book. When you first start to read the book it is really slow but once you get further and further through the book it gets better. I advise some 7th and 8th graders read this because I don't think that anyone below these grades will be able to read it fluently. Just the way that all of the characters talk.
23 reviews1 follower
December 4, 2019
I absolutely loved this book. This book was such a page-turner, there are so many unexpected chapters that will leave you shocked. I would definitely recommend this book to anybody. This book is poetry, but I feel like people who don't like poetry will like this book.
Profile Image for Sandy Brehl.
Author 8 books131 followers
May 10, 2020
The characters and story revealed in these pages are ones that will be recognizable/lived by many and a revelation to others. The voice in this writing is mentor text for authenticity and organic lyricism. I recently reread OUT OF THE DUST (Karen Hesse), which is written with such realism in the pervasive, choking, devastating dust of the 1930s Plains states. In very word I could feel, taste, experience the diminishment and hopelessness of their reality, all the while craving a glass of clean water and a shower.
In MAKE LEMONADE the author accomplishes something similar, embedding the gritty, sticky reality of Jolly's struggle while building a relationship among the characters and with the reader that demanded acceptance and embrace. "Unflinching" is the word that comes to mind, but not because the story is harsh, rather because it is so very tender and honest.
Several titles follow these characters forward in time, and I will be reading them soon.
Profile Image for Linda Lipko.
1,904 reviews43 followers
September 27, 2012
What an incredible book!!!! It is rich in character development, spot on in the harsh reality of the consequences of teen aged pregnancy when there is little or no support base, poetic in words and heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time!

Needing a job to save for college, 14 year old LaVaughn accepts the position of babysitter for two children. Seventeen years old, living in poverty, surrounded by hopelessness, their mother Jolly simply cannot get a grip on how to survive and look beyond day - day living. Her rent isn't paid, there is little food, and her children need clothing.

Kind heartedly, LaVaughn attempts to set Jolly on the path leading to a future, while struggling to learn the difference between a helping hand, a hand out and the trickiness of being pulled under.

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Mmars.
525 reviews99 followers
November 6, 2012
I haven't reviewed any YA on GR yet, not because I've not read any, but there's so much YA that covers all the same territory (i.e. dysfunction) in much the same way. In other words, if you've read one, you've read them all.

This book's style was fresh when published in 1993, and YA free verse writing was quickly published from other writers, evidenced by Karen Hesse winning the Newbery four years later with "Out of the Dust." Eminem's first CD came out in 1996. Poetry slams and hip hop have since become youth's mainstream.

But, if this book wasn't good, if it didn't hit a nerve, if it didn't resonate with both its targeted audience and those who get these books into kids hands, I wouldn't be writing this review now, twenty years later.

Profile Image for Joy H..
1,342 reviews62 followers
Want to read
April 8, 2009
This book, _Make Lemonade_ was described in a "BookPage" review as "a journey of discovering how to turn life's lemons into lemonade".

There are now 3 books in the "Make Lemonade" trilogy. The sequel to _Make Lemonade_ is _True Believer_. The third book is _This Full House_.

The is a first-person narrative. I enjoy that voice.

The books are written in free verse poetry which the author describes as "prose in funny-shaped lines" (BookPage review, March 2009).
Profile Image for Raina.
1,610 reviews128 followers
March 11, 2016
Read this as part of my Teen Services class in grad school. Lovely.
3 reviews1 follower
October 27, 2017
I like this book, I know lots of people who do not try to go to college, it’s a good book. This book is good because you will learn why it’s important to some people to go to college.At first I thought it was going to be a boring book because it cover, but once I started to ready it I was like this book sounds good and not boring or lame. I’m one of the people who like to pick books by its cover. I did like this book, I give it 4 stars because I think it will make people enjoy it. I feel like it’s going to make people enjoy it because they will learn why some people don’t want to waste their parents money just for college and they will work hard for it. When some people work for the money they want to use for something important for them they try the best to get that amount of money they need for it.

I think this was a good book because La Vaughn was a hard worker character. I know there's some people that do not like to work hard like La Vaughn does. The theme was relatable to the teenagers because some teenagers force more to the things that they want not like others who just asked money for the parents to buy something that I want. If I was y’all I would try hard and read this book because if you read it you’ll learn why the La Vaughn tries really hard to get the right amount of money to go to college. If you’re a teenager and you don’t have money to got to college you should read this cook and know why La Vaughn was working for. ** SPOILER ALERT ** La Vaughn did get to go college but the author has two more books about La Vaughn.
2 reviews
April 12, 2017
I liked the book Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwef Wolff because it’s about a girl close to my age. First of all, Jolly needed a baby sitter because she had work. A girl Lavaughn offered to watch her kids. In the middle jolly loses her job and doesn't know what to do. Lavaughn helps with the kids still, and jolly has to go to school to get a better job and support her kids. I liked it when Lavaughn tells her mom, “Jollys fired that means I’ve got no babysitting money”(Wolf.60) her mom feels bad for jolly and tried to help. This is one of my favorite parts because her mom is doing the right thing and helping Jolly. I also like it when Lavaughn “Took Jolly to her steam class”(Wolf.86). Lavaughn is trying to shoe Jolly that she needs to get back in school so she can support her kids now and in the future. Others may think that 17 year olds shouldn't have kids and a house so they might not want teens to read it. However, It's that person's life and they can do what they want when they want. In conclusion, I would rate it 4 stars out of 5.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Isaac.
21 reviews
April 12, 2019
There’s a girl, and babysits for a women named Jolly. Her house is usually a mess too. Then Jolly loses her job and the girl convinces her to go back to school. She ends up back at school just as the girl wanted. Jolly then tries to contact a billionaire to see if he can help her out with her financial struggles.
It uses the figurative device of imagery. You felt like you were struggling with Jolly in her trials. There is a very special connection between the reader and Jolly in this book. You can really feel the panic that everyone else is in too during the story. You can feel the heat of the moment.
I thought that the book was super good and I personally really enjoyed it. I recommend it to anyone who likes a good story. I really liked the characters, they were all fun and relatable. I hope that I can find more books like this. Definitely a must read for those who like poetry.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Danielle.
693 reviews
June 7, 2017
I like LaVaughn. I like the way she tries to figure out the world, if she's taking advantage of Jolly or if Jolly is taking advantage of her. I like the way these two girls, only three years apart, have such vastly different lives and they way they're brought together. I like that there isn't anything too trite like a scene where LaVaughn just gives in an cleans Jolly's apartment for her (which is what I might have done).

I enjoyed the sequel, True Believer, even more. I think the poetic style comes through more there, reminds me a bit of Sharon Creech.
Profile Image for Sara.
12 reviews1 follower
November 16, 2018
This book was about a teenage girl named LaVaughn who just wanted to have a job to save money for college. However, then she meets Jolly, a girl not that much older than her who has 2 kids. Jolly is struggling and the LaVaughn is helping her out by babysitting. This book was definitely a page turner and I loved this story.
Profile Image for Kassandra.
11 reviews
April 18, 2023
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff is a story told in free verse about a 14-old-girl who is babysitting the children of a 17-year-old mother. As someone who enjoys reading poetry books, this book was not my favorite Make Lemonade is entirely in free verse. I don’t think it would have made much of a difference to the story if the book was not in free verse. It was a nice story about strength while revolving around the saying “when life gives you lemons”. I don’t think I would choose to reread it. This book is perfect for those who enjoy short stories, but I wouldn’t recommend it to those looking for a good poetry book.
Profile Image for Hassan.
55 reviews
June 18, 2017
Deutsch unten
إذا أعطتك الحياة ليمونة .. فاصنع منها عصير الليمون
واستمتع به

على الرغم من أن الحبكة القصصية ليست قوية كفاية
إلا أن العبر التي يمكن استخلاصها من القصة كثيرة
وتعطيك دفعة جيدة من التحفيز

قرأت هذه الرواية باللغة الألمانية.. اللغة كانت بسيطة جداً وغير معقدة

Obwohl die Geschichte nicht so ist, wie ich sie mir gewünscht hatte, konnte ich aus der viel lernen.
Sie hat bei mir einen Motivationsschub ausgelöst.
Ich empfehle sie einfach weiter!

Die Sprache ist nicht sehr kompliziert!
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