This YA novel is on the Ultimate Teen Bookshelf list that I am trying to read through. When I read the synopsis it sounded okay, but it is better than okay - it is fabulous!
LaVaughn is fourteen and lives with her single mom in a disadvantaged neighborhood. In order to earn money for college LaVaughn takes a job babysitting for Jolly, a seventeen-year-old mother, who has two kids, Jeremy and Jilly. Jolly's apartment is filth-encrusted and cockroach infested, but LaVaughn loves the kids and becomes Jolly's friend. When Jolly gets fired LaVaughn continues to babysit for free while Jolly tries to find a job, much to LaVaughn's mother's disapproval. After months of unemployment, Jolly is finally convinced by LaVaughn to return to school and earn her GED. LaVaughn witnesses the desperation and mistrust that fill Jolly, yet also the accountability and capability Jolly accepts when she "takes hold" (as LaVaughn's mother says) and becomes responsible for her life and her childrens' lives. After a dramatic event that nearly takes Jilly's life, Jolly and LaVaughn go their separate ways and LaVaughn is left to ponder the nature of their relationship and why it had to end, as is the reader.
Written in a free-verse style and told in first person by LaVaughn, this short novel powerfully tells the story of two teens who are from the same neighborhood, but who take dramatically different paths in life. The evolution of Jolly's character is extremely well-done and so is the rendering of a poor neighborhood and school. I was very happy to find out that there is a sequel that focuses on LaVaughn - I can't wait to read it.