Monday, May 9, 2011

PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE by Jen Violi

Summary: (from the publisher)
In the spring of her senior year, Donna Parisi finds new life in an unexpected place: a coffin.

Since her father’s death four years ago, Donna has gone through the motions of living: her friendships are empty, she’s clueless about what to do after high school graduation, and her grief keeps her isolated, cut off even from the one parent she has left. That is until she’s standing in front of the dead body of a classmate at Brighton Brothers’ Funeral Home. At that moment, Donna realizes what might just give her life purpose is comforting others in death. That maybe who she really wants to be is a mortician.

This discovery sets in motion a life Donna never imagined was possible. She befriends a charismatic new student, Liz, notices a boy, Charlie, and realizes that maybe he's been noticing her, too, and finds herself trying things she hadn’t dreamed of trying before. By taking risks, Donna comes into her own, diving into her mortuary studies with a passion and skill she didn’t know she had in her. And she finally understands that moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting someone you love.

Jen Violi’s heartfelt and funny debut novel is a story of transformation—how one girl learns to grieve and say goodbye, turn loss into a gift, and let herself be exceptional...at loving, applying lipstick to corpses, and finding life in the wake of death.



My thoughts:
The title of this book had me at hello.  The jacket flap sealed the deal.  The reading made me full of long and joy and delight.

From page one, I climbed into Donna's back pocket and was totally wrapped up in her journey though this book.  I haven't rooted so hard for a character in a long time.  I just wanted everything to be all right for her.  She makes some great decisions, some terrible ones, but they all seemed really necessary at the time.  

I loved the naked honesty of the narrative, and Donna's views of other people throughout.  She's very observant, even though she's stand-offish.  I even enjoyed the impact of Catholicism on the book, which I did not expect.  Normally, I'm not taken with religious characters.  But here, Donna's faith and relationship with religion were an integral part of her journey without defining her or constraining her.  Violi played her hand beautifully here.

The secondary characters in this book, especially Liz, were as real as Donna herself, and I really enjoyed how Violi kept them from being stereotypes.  Yes, Liz was the independent, free spirit, but she was not predictable.  Yes, her sister, Linnie, was the angsty goth type, but she turned out to be more open-minded at the end than almost anyone.
There were so many delightful things about this book, I could wax poetic for pages.  But I'd rather you just read the book and experience it for yourself.  You won't regret it. 

Recommended for:
I am officially putting this on the must-read Contemporary YA list for 2011.  If you liked Emily Horner's A LOVE STORY STARRING MY DEAD BEST FRIEND, if you like Laurie Halse Anderson's style, if you still have a soft spot for Vada Sultenfuss from the movie My Girl--you'll like this book.

As always, let me know what you think if you read it!

- Liz

3 comments:

Kristan said...

Wow. That's a pretty strong endorsement. I'll add this to my list!

Sophia Richardson said...

I can honestly say that a YA novel about a girl who wants to be a mortician is a new one to me. I may have to check this book out when it's released.
- Sophia.

Cdragon said...

Stellar read. Page turner, very engaging, readers of all ages will love it.

Casey