Thursday, March 17, 2022


Ziegler, Jennifer. Worser.
March 15th 2022 by Margaret Ferguson Books
ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

William Orser was saddled with the nickname "Worser" early on in his school career, and can't shake it even though he bristles at its ungrammatical quality. He has bigger problems in his life than his name. His mother, a professor of rhetoric, has had a very debilitating stroke. Since the two were very close after the death of his father, also a professor, and shared a similar quirky, word obsessed personality, it is hard for him to see his mother suffer. His Aunt Iris has moved in to take care of both of them, but she is a loud, brash, artistic personality who rubs him the wrong with with her insistence that he make friends, dress in clothing other than rags, and do somethign other than work on his Masterwork, which consists of lists of words on odd topics, like "Words comprised of state abbreviations". His aunt insists that he go to dinner at the Khourys, who were colleagues of his mother and have a much more traditional life style. Their daughter, Donya, makes an effort to befriend him, but he has difficulty interacting with other people, including his "best" and only friend, Herbie. When Iris' demands become too much for him, and the library is closed after school because of budget cuts, he seeks refuge in a local used bookstore run by a curmudgeonly proprietor, Mr. Murray, and makes a deal that he will buy books and donate them back to the shop if he is allowed to spend time there. Being quiet is not a problem for him. When he gets involved in the literary club at school with Donya, it looks like he may have found a group he can stand, but they also lack a place to meet. Mr. Murray grudgingly allows them to meet at the shop. When these new relationships are threatened, Worser makes some bad decisions that impact everyone in a negative way. Will he be able to find his place in the world once he finally understands that his life will never go back to the way it was?

Worser is a very singular character with an unusual upbringing. While it is not stated that he is on the Autism Spectrum, he reads as if he  might be. It is too bad that we don't see his mother and her interactions with him before the stroke, because his view of the world might just be a function of being raised by someone who abetted his eccentricities, or who passed on her own. Worser seems to struggle with understanding things that most people have no trouble with; his dinner with the Khourys is full of awkward moments where he seems to not understand standard procedures of interacting with others.  Herbie and Donya are very understanding, and try to help Worser in social situations. 

Aunt Iris is also an interesting character, and while she is doing what she thinks is best for her sister, it is at odds with Worser's ideas of what is best. Aside from Sonnenblick's Falling Over Sideways, I can't think of another middle grade depiction of a parent who has had a stroke, although I had a friend who experienced a slightly less disabling stroke when our children were about Worser's age. This sort of parental disability affects children very profoundly, so it is interesting to see such a situation depicted. 

This is quite a departure from Ziegler's titles like Revenge of the Flower Girls, and has more in common with Baskin's Anything but Typical of K.A. Holt's Rhyme Schemer

I think that this book would struggle to find readers in my library but might do well in a college community or a private school where Worser's style of upbringing might be  more common. 

Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment