March 04, 2022


By Jennifer Ziegler
Review by
A true word nerd finds a group of kindred spirits in Jennifer Ziegler’s Worser, a middle grade novel anchored by a singularly memorable protagonist.
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Jennifer Ziegler, best known for her Brewster Triplets series, introduces readers to a singularly memorable protagonist in Worser.

William Wyatt Orser, better known by his not-so-nice nickname, Worser, has had a rough go of it. His mother, a professor of rhetoric whom Worser considers one of his only intellectual equals, had a stroke three months ago that left her unable to speak. Since she’s not able to care for Worser on her own, Aunt Iris has moved in with them, disrupting Worser’s notions of peace and order.

Bullied at school and no longer able to find refuge at home, Worser dives even deeper into the world he loves best: the world of words. He spends his time working on his “Masterwork,” an epic collection of observations and musings on language that is his pride and joy. One entry explores what he dubs “Word Contradictions”: “If terrific can mean the opposite of terrible, why isn’t horrific the opposite of horrible?”

But letters and words can only go so far in satisfying the need for connection and companionship. Worser stumbles into just that when budget cuts force his school’s library to reduce its hours, setting off a chain of events that leads him to a group of kindred spirits who meet once a week in a nearby bookstore. For the first time, Worser begins to form meaningful and lasting connections with people who understand and appreciate him.

Worser is witty, sarcastic and often seems wise beyond his years. Although he sometimes behaves judgmentally toward those around him, he also 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.

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By Jennifer Ziegler
Margaret Ferguson
ISBN 9780823449569

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