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Twelve-year-old William Wyatt Orser—unfortunately nicknamed Worser—believes that “there is nothing more important than words.” In fact, Worser has created a secret Masterwork, a lexicon of words he’s collected and revealed only to his mother. Worser realizes that despite his mastery of words, he is unskilled at talking with and relating to people.  

When Worser’s widowed mother is incapacitated by a stroke and loses her ability to speak, Worser’s aunt comes to live with them. Worser’s “new upside-down reality” is almost more than he can bear as Aunt Iris—a flamboyant extrovert, artist, and lover of cats—strives to organize his life and draw him out of his introversion.  

Surprisingly, Worser discovers a small bookstore in which he finds a sanctuary from the sad circumstances in his home. Worser and the store manager, Mr. Murray, strike up a bargain so that Worser may regularly visit the store as long as he purchases some items and donates them back to the failing business. When Worser learns that Donya Khoury, his heart-throb, and the Lit Club need a room in which to hold their meetings, Worser is able to convince Mr. Murray to allow the group to use his store as a meeting place. As Worser begins to trust the Lit Club members, he shares his Masterwork with them. But the good beginning is thwarted by unforeseen negative circumstances. When Worser feels he will lose everything, he makes a destructive choice that will plague him for years to come. Still, Worser begins to make peace with the fact that he has no power to stop the changes he is facing and realizes that, with the help of others, he can move forward.  

This novel for middle school readers, which contains several instances of profanity, is a masterwork itself as it nimbly and creatively explores the gifts of words and language. Author Jennifer Ziegler’s absorbing, multi-layered portrayal of Worser—his deepest hopes, fears, triumphs, losses, and growing pains—avoids easy answers and quick fixes, and introduces readers to an endearing character for whom one can cheer, laugh, and cry. (Margaret Ferguson Books)


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