Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi

Publisher: Hyperion Books
Pages: 336
Publication Date: May 24, 2011
Source: ARC- from publisher
Pre Order It: Amazon
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. --Goodreads
Donna is still plagued by her father's death. She has never fully gotten over him, but when she starts working at the Brighton Brothers: the local funeral home, she may be on the road to recovery. People just don't understand why she would want to become a mortician. Her mother fights with Donna about her plans for the future, but Donna begins to feel more alive than has since her father's death. On a quest to find her true self, she discovers so much more than that and can clearly see the path ahead of her.

This book sounded fantastic. I was so eager to begin it. Violi's voice was the component that made me keep reading the book. If it wasn't for her writing style, I would have put the novel down long time ago. At first, the characters were intriguing, but by the last page the plot had slowed down so much that I lost interest. This is mainly a character-driven book and most of Violi's characters were fantastically-drawn. Donna was interesting. She was different and I don't think I fully understand her wish to become a mortician. I feel that in some ways she seemed too mature, too different, and too cliche (a teen on the quest of finding who she is). Roger was too mysterious-- the yoga instructor dating Donna's mom. Despite being mysterious, I thought he was a good character for the Parisi family. Aunt Selena was my favorite. She was the one who helped Donna cope with her unique-ness, when Aunt Selena was ostracized for that same trait. Tim and Donna's relationship was awful. Donna seemed a bit cliche when it came to boys: she was head-over-heels for this guy who clearly had no respect for her. Tim didn't care about anything-- his whole lifestyle got on my nerves. I loved Charlie. He was moving and inspiring. I longed for more scenes with him but was sorely disappointed.

There wasn't much of a plot. A friend of mine had asked what the book was about and all I could say was: "About a girl, Donna, who wants to be a mortician."

However the ending wrapped everything up nicely. Donna found herself and the novel felt whole and happy by the time it had ended. Overall I would not recommend it, but if you like novels about inspiration, passion, and discovering oneself then this may be the book for you.

First Sentence:
"I'm making a can of tomato soup with a can of two-percent milk for dinner that no one will eat."
Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi, p. 1

Cover: 3
Characters: 3
Plot: 2
Writing Style: 4
Ending: 4
Overall: 3

Rated R for brief nudity, adult content, and mild language.

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