MFAC YA Booklist: True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff
True Believer is a novel in verse, or is it? I would say funky line breaks and jaggy right margins do not verse make (how’s that for some ferociously f*rked syntax?). Which I've discussed at length here and will touch on again. But first, other thoughts:
A line on an early page, “a changed climate down in my insides” hints at sexual tension and foreshadows changes to come—a changed climate. Her tidy room also contrasts her messy life circumstances. I expected, however, more to be made of this after-school grammar program. It’s built up, then dropped, then becomes tangential. We don’t really see her developing these relationships.
I loved the “privileged lives” of the plants in the wealthy swimming club. It’s these little details I wish there were more of. So vivid and rich and telling (telling in a good way, not in the vs. showing way).
Yet I didn’t buy the voice. At all. So much so that I ended up writing a critical essay about it (comparing this to Hesse’s Out of the Dust).
Strange aside on the issue of race. I assumed the protagonist and most characters were white because the author is white, and because there’s no lilting rhythm of African American speech (Tyrell by Coe Booth is amazing for the authentic voice of a young black male). But I’m not quite sure. Should I be sure? I sure would have liked to be sure. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Wolff wanted any girl to be able to imagine herself into the story, so chose to keep it ambiguous. I found the ambiguity unsettling. Maybe that's just me?
Despite all of that, I keep wondering, why the poetic form? Why not prose?
Is it because
wrote a short