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Deidre's Book Reviews

True Believer
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Wolff, Virginia Euwer. 2001. TRUE BELIEVER. New York: 

             Atheneum Books for Young Readers.     ISBN: 0-689-82827-6.

 

 

 

True Believer tells the story of a 15 yr. old girl who learns a lot about life through her relationship experiences.  The girl, LaVaughn, lives in the inner city with her single parenting mother.  In the setting of the novel, LaVaughn has already lost her father years ago. The story is very descriptive in explaining her decisions on how she plans to approach the guy whom she has a crush on and how she deals with trying to keep her two best friends while they are discovering their religious beliefs. 

 

 

 

This story deals with a number of different issues including, religion and spirituality, homosexuality, violence in the schools, teen pregnancies, single parenting, and coping with the death of a loved one, and even suicide.  The topics are very real issues that teens are faced with today.  This categorizes the novel as contemporary realistic fiction.

 

 

 

Wolff’s story serves as a piece of young adult literature, being narrated by the young adult and main character, LaVaughn.  The organizational style of the book also makes it very easy to read.  Each chapter is relatively short- some being no longer than one page long.  The sentences are arranged to appear almost in stanzas or verses, sectioned out – similar to poetry. 

 

 

 

Although the story discusses very serious topics, it also keeps the reader laughing and anxious to read on and discover what decisions LaVaughn has made about her friends and life.  One of the greatest aspects of this book is that it demonstrates how young adults go through life, discovering numerous things and trying to figure out what they want and do not want to live without.

 

 

 

True Believer contains so much realism; it could be criticized for having too much emphasis on the tough issues – leaving less room for just a plain good story.  When reading the story, it is easy to get caught up in wondering more about why LaVaughn’s two friends are so into their religious club or how does the single teenage mother of three small children (Jolly) survives.  The great thing about this story is that young adults can relate to it easily.  However, the characters all seem real, with human emotions and believable situations.

 

 

 

 

Wolff definitely achieves the goal of presenting a conflict that affects human beings.  This is one of the important factors for contemporary realistic fiction (according to Tunnell & Jacobs).  There is also evidence of the reflection of society and the teenager’s place in it.  For example, LaVaughn has promised her mom that she will go to college and get out of the poverty-stricken society that she lives in.  The school’s counselor and teachers encourage the students to “rise to the occasion- which is life.” 

 

 

 

The novel tackles various controversial issues openly.  I recommend for this particular story to be read with parents and child so that the young reader is educated about the issues presented throughout the book- especially homosexuality and religion. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Last Updated: April 25, 2005