On Our Shelves Now
A bullied 12-year-old boy must find a new normal after his mother has a stroke and his life is turned upside down.
William Wyatt Orser, a socially awkward middle schooler, is a wordsmith who, much to his annoyance, acquired the ironically ungrammatical nickname of “Worser" so long ago that few people at school know to call him anything else.
Worser grew up with his mom, a professor of rhetoric and an introvert just like him, in a comfortable routine that involved reading aloud in the evenings, criticizing the grammar of others, ignoring the shabby mess of their house, and suffering the bare minimum of social interactions with others. But recently all that has changed. His mom had a stroke that left her nonverbal, and his Aunt Iris has moved in with her cats, art projects, loud music, and even louder clothes. Home for Worser is no longer a refuge from the unsympathetic world at school that it has been all his life.
Feeling lost, lonely, and overwhelmed, Worser searches for a new sanctuary and ends up finding the Literary Club--a group of kids from school who share his love of words and meet in a used bookstore– something he never dreamed existed outside of his home. Even more surprising to Worser is that the key to making friends is sharing the thing he holds dearest: his Masterwork, the epic word notebook that he has been adding entries to for years.
But relationships can be precarious, and it is up to Worser to turn the page in his own story to make something that endures so that he is no longer seen as Worser and earns a new nickname, Worder.
About the Author
Jennifer Ziegler is an author of books for young adults and middle graders, including How Not to Be Popular, Revenge of the Flower Girls, and Revenge of the Teacher’s Pets. She is on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA program on Writing for Children and Young Adults. Like Worser, she is a lover of words, word play, puzzles, libraries, and bookstores. Unlike Worser, she was never sent to the principal’s office. Jennifer lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, author Chris Barton. Visit her at jenniferziegler.com.
★ "This wonderfully layered story unfolds its many facets gently: finding refuge, garnering peer appreciation, questioning the way things were, and facing the toll of untreated trauma. . . . The author has developed her main character so well it’s hard to believe it’s not biography—but it can certainly pass as the most entertaining New York Times crossword artillery you’ll ever read."—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
★ "Full of SAT-worthy vocabulary and wordplay, this is a touching story about grief, trauma, and embracing change. This story is especially powerful due to its sensitive depictions of non- death-related grief, which Ziegler accurately captures."—Booklist, Starred Review
★ "Although his voice suits his age and emotional development, Will's prolific vocabulary and witty linguistic games—such as arranging state abbreviations into longer words or appreciating the perfect wetness (and etymological origin) of galoshes—should delight more advanced readers and inspire others to word play, too. A compelling and semantically delightful story for lovers of language and flawed protagonists."—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
★ "[A] memorable depiction of grief, loss, and life-altering change. . . . [Ziegler’s] nuanced portrayal of [Worser’s] changing relationships with his family and friends make this character-driven narrative a cathartic and emotionally charged experience."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"[Ziegler] has created characters that are so real readers will readily connect and empathize with every one of them. . . . With themes of friendship, kindness, loss, forgiveness, and acceptance woven throughout the well-written chapters, this is the quintessential middle school story. Middle school librarians, teachers, and students will love this this well-crafted coming of age tale."—School Library Connection
"Ziegler ably delineates how words help Worser to find a place in the world and evolve from Worser into ‘Worder,’"—The Horn Book
"Worser . . . possesses a charming awkwardness that will endear him to readers, and his character arc is satisfying. Outcasts and oddballs of all sorts will find Worser’s story relatable, and fellow word nerds will be especially thrilled by his thoughtful observations on the many eccentricities of the English language."—BookPage
"With tenderness and authenticity, Ziegler delivers an emotional gut-punch for language-loving readers."—Shelf Awareness