The novel Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff, set in the early 90s, is about fourteen-year-old girl La Vaughn who takes on a babysitting job. She needs to work her way through school to save enough money to get through college. She means to study, to get a better job, to escape the poverty that she is growing up in.She babysits for Jolly, a seventeen-year-old mother of two, Jeremy and Jilly.
The place where this little family live is disgusting. The children are filthy and deprived of all the good things in life. No decent food, no learning at home, no stable basics at all. But Jolly loves them fiercely.Things go well enough at first, Jolly works an evening shift and La Vaughn babysits from the finish of school until late in the evening. La Vaughn works hard to look after the children and complete all her homework every night. And she takes pride in herself and her work because she's nicely brought up.
Shetries to do her best for Jeremy and Jillly.She spends time playing with them and teaching them and cleaning them and comes to love them. While Jolly is working she can afford to pay La Vaughn and La Vaughn's bank account, her own escape route, grows satisfactorily. Then, Jolly gets fired.
Now Jolly and La Vaughn are friends and it is only at this point that La Vaughn really comprehends what a terrible trap Jolly is in. Jolly has no family to fall back on.She never went to school much, so she is almost illiterate.
She cannot find another job, and if she does it most likely won't last very long. She fears to take the Welfare handouts in case she loses her children.La Vaughn continues to babysit for free while Jolly considers her non-existent options:Me sitting the kids free is like Jolly gets Welfare right at homefrom somebody almost a child.