Review of Worser

Worser Worser
by Jennifer Ziegler
Middle School    Ferguson/Holiday    256 pp.    g
3/22    978-0-8234-4956-9    $17.99
e-book ed. 978-0-8234-5283-5    $10.99

When his (widowed) mother, a professor of rhetoric, has a stroke and can no longer speak, social misfit ­twelve-year-old William Wyatt Orser, nicknamed Worser, feels “utterly alone. Cold. Helpless.” Obsessed with words, the boy carries in his backpack a loose-leaf binder he refers to as his Masterwork, which contains 321 pages of lists of words and observations and questions about how they work. (“If ­terrific can mean the opposite of terrible, why isn’t horrific the opposite of horrible?”) But all that doesn’t mean he is good at actually using words. He is no Cyrano with the girl he has a crush on, and he is impatient, even caustic, with the aunt who is trying to take care of him and his mother. But Ziegler ably delineates how words help Worser to find a place in the world and evolve from Worser into “Worder,” as he and his nerdy-wordy Lit Club friends carve out a refuge for themselves at a local bookstore. If Worser is not especially ­likable at first, he and his new friends—including the brusque bookshop owner—find ways to grow and be there for one another.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider
Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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