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Friday, July 22, 2011

Sweet, Quirky Novel Gets A Little Weird For Me

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's been four years since cancer stole her father's life, but Donna Parisi still grieves like it was yesterday. The 17-year-old feels as hollow as a corpse, so empty that she can't move on, can't fully engage in her life, can't even enjoy her last year of high school. Her mother and older brother seem to be getting on with their lives, so why can't she?

When Donna attends the viewing of a dead classmate at Brighton Brothers Funeral Home - the same place where her father's funeral was held - it brings back painful memories. It also brings an epiphany and, for the first time in a very long time, hope. The thought has never occurred to her before, but since she's so well-acquainted with grief, wouldn't she make a perfect mortician? Donna's so taken with the idea that she applies for a job at the Brightons' mortuary and, abandoning her half-baked plan to study Communications at the University of Dayton, decides to go to a local college for mortuary science. No one's too thrilled about the idea. Except Donna, who's finally glimpsing a light at the end of her long, dark tunnel of pain.

Using her own experiences to help others gives Donna a new strength, something she'll need to deal with her family's disappointment, her mother's new boyfriend, and her own budding guy trouble. As she marches forward, embracing the world around her with confident resolve, she'll finally learn to say goodbye to her father. And hello to life.

Putting Makeup on Dead People, a debut novel by writing coach Jen Violi, is a strange little book. I want to call it a sweet, quirky, life-affirming novel because that's what it is. Mostly. It just gets weird in spots. Not because of the dead thing - that part is handled with appropriate respect - but because of oddly graphic scenes with Donna's idiot boyfriend and not graphic, but equally odd scenes with a girl on whom she seems to have a little girl-crush. Both of those things detracted from the sweetness of the book, although not the overall poignancy. Although I shed a few tears over the ending, the finale didn't move me enough to negate those weird little moments that kind of ruined the book for me. In the end, I liked the book enough to finish it, but not enough to give it above a C grade.

(Readalikes: Um, I can't really think of anything. Can you?)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language (a handful of F-words, plus milder invectives), sexual content, and depictions of underrage drinking

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Putting Makeup on Dead People from the generous folks at Disney/Hyperion. Thank you!


  1. That does sound weird. All of it. The title especially. Thanks for wading through that much *for* us.

  2. I have this one on my TBR shelf and I did get the impression it would be strange. I'm glad most of it is fun, though. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Sounds too confusing for me to give it a shot I'm afraid...

  4. Great honest review. I'm not sure about this one.


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