Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Thursday, April 28, 2011

Plot Summary:
LaVaughn is a dreamer. After graduating from high school, she will go to college where she will meet a handsome man and have children of her own.. Not only has she known hardship, she does her best to survive inner city life by staying away from drugs, sex, and violence. Her mother is her rock and foundation who not only works all day to keep food on the table, but pushes LaVaughn to succeed and become someone important. In this story, LaVaughn is dealing with the typical teenage issues where she and her best friends are becoming different people; her mother has found a new man and she feels like her mother is betraying her father's memory; Jody, her old best friend, moves back into the apartment building things changed because he is a lot more good looking than before. Told in free-verse, Virginia Euwer Wolff provides readers with an inspirational story about an inner-city girl who strives to the best she can be.

Critical Evaluation:
True Believer is not only beautifully written, it is incredibly moving where readers will not only fall in love with LaVaughn, but cheer her on as she deals with her problems. Given her situation, and environment, expectations for are be low; however, LaVaughn's mother is absolutely amazing. Although she works all day to support her daughter, LaVaughn's mother talks to her and reminds her that she will do amazing things by avoiding certain behaviors and working hard. The relationships between LaVaughn and her friends are very real, which, teens can relate to in many ways; as we grow older, we change and this is what our main character is learning. Furthermore, the situation between her and Jody is just as complicated, which many of us will experience or have experienced. Teens will enjoy this story because it conveys that no matter how many bad things happen to us we still have our dreams to keep us going. 

Information about the Author:
According to an interview, with Don Gallo, Virginia Euwer Wolff was born in Portland, Oregon, and  lived there until college. Actually, Wolff  lived three miles from a town of about two hundred people so, needless to say, she is a country girl. As the daughter of a lawyer, who eventually became a farmer, she grew up in a beautiful log house with no electricity, surrounded by apple and pear trees. Unfortunately, her father died of a heart attack when she was just five and she did not cope with it well. After struggling with an eating disorder and rickets, Virginia's family did everything they could to get her well and, surprisingly, the one that saved her was classical music. Furthermore, she eventually started taking violin lessons, which helped her to heal emotionally and physically.

During her adolescence, things started to become more and more complicated for Virginia. According to Wolf: "I was quite a mess in my teenage years, and it occurs to me that if I'd taken a creative writing class I might still have been a mess but could possibly have been a more articulate mess. I would have been forced to examine some of the thoughts and biases that came so glibly into my mind and left just as swiftly when a cooler or more hip thought or bias came floating by and replaced them" (para. 12).After graduating from college, Wolff got married, had children, and became a teacher. In 1998, Wolff became a full-time writer and has written six young adult novels.

Teen Poetry

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Challenge Issues:
Books Similar to True Believer:

Awards & Recognition:
  • American Library Association Notable Children's Book, 2002
  • Book Sense 76 Top Ten Teen List, American Bookseller's Association, 2002
  • Booklist starred review, 2001
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Book, 2001
  • Carnegie Medal finalist, 2002
  • Evergreen Young Adult Book Award Nominee, 2004
  • Garden State Teen Book Award Nominee, 2004
  • Golden Kite Award, 2002
  • Horn Book Magazine starred review, 2001
  • IBBY Honour Award, 2003
  • IRA/CBC Young Adults' Choice, 2003
  • Jane Addams Book Award Honor Book, 2002
  • Kirkus Reviews Pointer Review, 2001
  • Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award for YA Fiction nominee, 2002
  • Missouri Gateway Readers' Choice Award for Teens Nominee, 2003-2004
  • National Book Award Winner, 2001
  • Nevada Young Readers' Award Nominee, 2004
  • New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, 2002
  • New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, 2003
  • Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Award, 2002
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Program Master List, 2003-2004
  • Printz Award Honor Book, 2002
  • Publishers Weekly starred review, 2001
  • Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee, 2002

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      Deborah Takahashi
      Pasadena, CA, United States
      My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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