Following LaVaughn to ‘This Full House’

Alison Morris -- November 24th, 2008

A few weeks ago I finished reading This Full House (HarperTeen, February 2008), the conclusion to Virginia Euwer Wolff’s Make Lemonade trilogy. And what a deeply satisfying conclusion it was!! I loved, loved, loved this book. LOVED it! I feel genuinely privileged to have been able to watch LaVaughn age and change and grow into the young woman that she is by the end of this trilogy. (Though how sad I am that there won’t be more books about her!)

Fellow bookseller Pat Pereira read This Full House soon after I did and the two of us compared notes. We both felt the story could have suffered for the fact that it requires its readers to embrace the plausibility of one very BIG coincidence. But it didn’t, which is a testament mostly, I think, to Wolff’s ability to make you care so deeply for her characters that you’ll accept whatever happens to and around them with little or no reservation.

In short, I thought this book was about as close to perfect as they come. It moved me, it thrilled me, it worked the same magic on me that True Believer, the first in the trilogy, did (and that was some incredible kind of magic). I am reluctant to write a true "review" here, because I don’t want to give away anything that happens in the plot, lest I deprive someone of the pleasure of discovering it for themselves. Instead I’m pasting here the words I jotted down in the few minutes just after I’d closed the cover on my ARC, while the cadence of Wolff’s free verse was still with me (though, ALAS, I possess none of her talents for this writing style!).

*****

Fifteen years we have waited
to see what becomes of LaVaughn
with her upright ways
and her oversized heart
and her never really knowing
how to say just what to say.

Now here she is,
back at last,
striding in with her
new knowledge,
bright mind,
big love, 
wild ideas.
What will happen to her too full heart?

I did so not so much read this book
as press hope into its pages.
I hoped, hoped, hoped 
that this girl was going to
rise above it,
figure it out,
get it right,
make it good,
grow up happy.

It’s hard to love a character this much,
to wish her a million wishes.
It’s easy, though, to love
a book that makes this happen,
a writer who is this talented,
a trilogy that builds this house,
and a story that fills it so completely.

*****

Off the topic of This Full House but on the topic of the Make Lemonade trilogy, I just want to mention the fact that the cover of True Believer (one of my all-time favorite YA novels) features one of my all-time favorite cover designs. It looks both elegant and intriguing — romantic without being cheesy. It made me want to pick up this book immediately and read it (which I did). After I’d done so, the cover wowed me even more… (Genius!) There is more plot revealed in this picture than I ever could have guessed!

I also want to acknowledge the difficulty of designing covers for the books in this trilogy, in which the race of its main characters is never revealed by the author. Are they white? Black? Asian? Latino? Whatever you want them to be. It took me two books to figure that out. And a third to realize what a cover design challenge that must be.

Back in 2001, Horn Book editor Roger Sutton asked Wolff about this "no particular ethnicity" issue and much, much more in a great interview he did with her. You can (and should!) read it on the Horn Book’s website.

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