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Putting Makeup on Dead People

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  990 Ratings  ·  218 Reviews
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 st
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Hyperion Books
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11th out of 281 books — 145 voters
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131st out of 263 books — 2,256 voters

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Community Reviews

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Apr 04, 2011 Vinaya rated it liked it
Have you ever seen those ridiculously cheesy but adorable pictures of Anne Geddes babies?

FLOWER BABY Pictures, Images and Photos

If you have anything close to a maternal instinct, they're the sort of pictures that make you get misty-eyed, laugh a little, and coo over the baby. This was similar to my reaction to Putting Makeup on Dead People. It's a surprising book about loss, redemption and finding your way back.

Donna Parisi's been floating in a quiet space ever since her father passed away. She goes to school, she pretends to be nor
I'm probably the only person that cried over this funny, compassionate book about growing up, discovering yourself, and coping with life after the death of a loved one, but we all know that I am a huge weepy sap, anyway. I love character-driven stories, and while this one doesn't exactly go where I expected (because it is also largely plotless, with a lot of interesting avenues -- mortuary school classes, for example -- left unexplored), it also gave me a satisfying, meaningful experience. I con ...more
Apr 23, 2016 Sesana rated it really liked it
This book had me from the prologue. Donna is fourteen. Her father is dying, and it's time for her to say goodbye. And I felt just exactly the same when I was nineteen, and my father was dying, and it was time for me to say goodbye. It's rare for me to read a book about grief where I fully identify with the way the main character feels it. I'm not saying that those other forms of grief are wrong, or badly written, just not mine. And in so many ways, through so many situations, Donna was feeling m ...more
Apr 19, 2011 Liz rated it it was amazing
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
A Book Vacation
May 12, 2011 A Book Vacation rated it it was ok
I must admit, I wanted to read this novel for the mortician aspect—I’ve always wanted to be a mortician. I know it’s morbid, but I’ve always had a weird fascination with death, so I was easily able to connect with Donna on this level. I had hoped for more of the story to center around the funeral home and actually putting makeup on dead people, but the focus of the book isn’t really about that at all, or even the job of a mortician. Instead, this novel focuses on Donna Parisi’s coming of age. Lo ...more
Apr 14, 2011 Skye rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, ya
The title, the cover, and the premise automatically made me want to read this book. The cover's simple, colourful, and cute, and the title is odd. I'm also getting into realistic YA, about family and grieving and the like.

Donna is a realistic character with a clear, unique voice. The first-person narration is raw and extremely honest. I never really knew what people meant when they said the voice was "honest" until I read books like this. She was definitely relatable, which made it easy to sympa
Apr 15, 2011 Kate rated it liked it
Shelves: age-ya, arcs, 2011
I read this ARC via NetGalley.

Three years after her father's death, high school senior Donna is still feeling the loss. When she attends the funeral of a classmate, she ends up talking to one of the men who run the funeral home, and that's when she begins thinking about how she might like to work at a funeral home, putting make up on dead people. Most of her friends aren't too thrilled about her new career path, with the exception of Liz, the new girl who has a gift of making everything positive
Dec 30, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Putting Makeup on Dead People has sadly been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years now, untouched and unread. What pulled me in was the bright red lips, the funeral flowers, and obviously that the cover picture is upside down. After two, almost three years, reading this book and finally posting my review is long overdue!

Donna Parisi is finishing up her senior year in high school, graduating and soon starting her new life in at a local college. The same college her brother is graduating from
Sep 16, 2011 Heather rated it it was amazing
Inspiring and powerful. I wish I had written this book. Not just because it involves scientific fascination with death and corpses, but also because it has such strong themes on spiritual transformation. Violi pegs it. Donna's experience and choices align with what the deepest parts of me understand about the process. There are also the philosophical ties, along with relationship dynamics that apply universally.

My favorite part? That Donna's self-actualization drives her at first to instinctual
Apr 24, 2011 Sara rated it it was amazing
Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi follows Donna who has found what she wants to do with her life, work in a funeral home as a mortician. After the death of her father Donna has been floating through life. While visiting a funeral home after the death of a classmate Donna has a conversation with one of the owners of the funeral home and decides that working in the mortuary business is her calling. The book follows Donna as she completes her senior year in high school and starts college. ...more
May 23, 2011 Jacinda rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
Before I even had an inkling as to what Putting Makeup on Dead People was about, the cover and title drew me in. I assumed because of these two things, it was going to have something to do with death. Of course, Putting Makeup on Dead People involves death in a couple different ways.

I want to give props to Jen Violi for having Donna, our protagonist in Putting Makeup on Dead People, have an interest in mortuary science. It was unique from anything I’ve read before, so I loved reading about it ev
Mar 15, 2012 Merand rated it liked it
First, what grabbed me was the title and cover art. I mean - putting makeup on dead people??? Can there be any more bizarre thought? So it hooked me and after reading the jacket I thought I'd give it a shot. As a whole, I'd say I enjoyed the book, but if I broke it down into parts, there were perhaps more indifferent moments than exceptional. I'll be honest that much of it is due to the teenage protagonist who is filled with angst and trying to define who she is and what her world will look like ...more
Melanie Goodman
Jen Violi’s Putting Makeup on Dead People immediately comes across as both a bit morbid and witty, and it delivers on that promise all the way through. I loved this book more than I ever would have expected; it’s the kind of book I want to buy just so that I can pass it around to everyone I know.

As a child, Donna lost her father. Her memories of his death and the funeral home are vivid. While Donna struggles with her feelings about death and surviving in the wake of death, she also remembers the
Miss Bookiverse
Dieses Buch ist so wie ich mir die Hintergrundmusik in einem Bestattungsinstitut vorstelle: leise, beruhigend und tröstlich. Protagonistin Donna fällt es kurz vor Ende ihrer Schulkarriere wie Schuppe von den Augen: sie will nicht wie ursprünglich geplant Communications studieren sondern sich zur Bestatterin ausbilden lassen. Dieser Aspekt hat einen äußerst interessanten Handlungsspielraum für die Geschichte eröffnet. Mein Wissen über amerikanische Bestattungsinstitute beschränkte sich bisher auf ...more
Aug 09, 2011 Sara rated it it was ok
Shelves: ya-lit
The synopsis that I had read for this title make it seem as though this tale is about Donna’s coming of age. But really this book encompasses an entire family’s rebirth. The Parisis lost their father to cancer a few years before the beginning of this novel and the plot opens while the family is still in some sort of stasis. The mother remains loyal to her husband, not dating, not socializing. The younger sister, Linnie, is rebellious in the form of wild hair color choices, and Donna herself is s ...more
Gloria Harrison
May 03, 2011 Gloria Harrison rated it it was amazing
Putting Makeup on Dead People is not a complicated book, insomuch as the language isn't overwrought, the characters aren't inaccessibly heavy, and the plotting and pacing aren't stylistically challenging. However, the book delicately and playfully plunges the very complicated depths of death, family, faith, and growing up. Donna Parisi, the book's main character, is a girl many young woman can relate to, even those who haven't lost a parent or who haven't decided to rebel by attending mortuary c ...more
Putting Makeup on Dead People is Donna Parisi’s personal account of her life. We enter Donna’s world as she’s finishing the last few weeks of high school, graduates and figures out life after school. We learn her dad died about five years ago, and she lives with the sadness and the memories, struggling to move on. As crunch time comes at the end of the year, Donna has to choose whether or not to go to Dayton University (where she’s already been accepted) or go a completely different route – mort ...more
Newport Librarians
An excellent YA novel! Donna is a senior in high school, not really an outcast but quiet and keeps mostly to herself and her few acquaintances (they can't really be classified as close friends). She eats lunch with the same people every day, but never goes out or participates in much since her father died 4 years earlier. She meets Liz, a new girl at school, and starts to question what it is she really wants to do and why she is here. During a funeral for a fellow classmate, she meets JB, the ma ...more
the golden witch.
It's a shame that I just couldn't emotionally click with this book - because I have quite the soapbox mentality concerning death and Western culture.

This is such a promising premise - a girl, in order to deal with death, becoming a mortician - but it was wasted, it felt like, within the first ninety-something pages on high school banter which was more annoying than witty.

While I'll give it to Violi that Donna is a very interesting character with her future career choice, she wasn't consistent en
Brielle Kerkhoff
Jan 05, 2014 Brielle Kerkhoff rated it really liked it
3.5. Not the type of book I would usually go for, but I actually quite liked it. An emotional, quirky coming of age story with a definite twist. And anything with cool independent mortician chicks is good with me! This book hit the mark on relationships with parents and teenagers, which made me tear up a bit at one point. I think this could be a good read for someone who has experienced a loss in their lives. All in all a quick, but touching read!
Colleen Lecomte
Dec 23, 2015 Colleen Lecomte rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya-fiction
An excellent YA novel! Donna is a senior in high school, not really an outcast but quiet and keeps mostly to herself and her few acquaintances (they can't really be classified as close friends). She eats lunch with the same people every day, but never goes out or participates in much since her father died 4 years earlier.

She meets Liz, a new girl at school, and starts to question what it is she really wants to do and why she is here. During a funeral for a fellow classmate, she meets JB, the ma
Sheena Boekweg
Jan 16, 2015 Sheena Boekweg rated it really liked it
First off, the good. The writing was superb. Just effortless. Also the author must have done so much research, I literally thought maybe she had studied to become a mortician it's that realistic. The characters are likable, and there is a clear and awesome growth arc. It was a really good story, about a girl learning how to become a mortician, which was fascinating to me.

The reason I didn't give it five stars, when it is clearly a well written and interesting book, was because of Tim. About half
Beatrix Kiddo
Aug 14, 2014 Beatrix Kiddo rated it it was amazing
This book was truly beautiful. I related to Donna at almost every turn. The best thing about the writing style was that it was simple, clean, and totally subtle. Even when she's describing sadness she doesn't do it in the over the top teenage angst kind of way. She really highlights the dull numbness that comes with loss and grieving, even feeling lost.

Donna starts out as being the outsider, and it's in a totally realistic way. Not the kind of outsider that eats lunch in a bathroom stall, but t
Kay Carman
Feb 23, 2016 Kay Carman rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
I really enjoyed this story but it's one of those that I wouldn't be able to recommend to those within my closest social circle because of the language and descriptions of heavy petting. The premise of a senior in high school coming to the conclusion that her "calling" is to become a mortician is certainly unique, however. At first her mom and older brother are very worried about her, thinking that her career choice is based in a morbid fascination with death brough on by her dad's death several ...more
For once I wrote a review on my website and although it is in Spanish, I leave the link here for anyone who might be interested (and also understand Spanish :P)
Kristi Whalen
Mar 09, 2014 Kristi Whalen rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I loved this book for a lot of reasons that I don't necessarily have for loving other books. The book takes place in Dayton, Ohio, which for this Cincinnati girl was really close to home. It talked of locales, dining establishments, parks and universities that I know really well. It totally played on my homesick heartstrings and made me miss a city that I didn't even realize I was missing.

As far as the plot and characters went, there was a lot of family struggle which resonated wit
Apr 03, 2011 Ann added it
I wanted this to be an awesome book about teen morticians, but at 55 pages in it has not lived up to its premise. Just start working in the funeral home, depressed girl!
Saleena Davidson
Feb 05, 2014 Saleena Davidson rated it really liked it
This was such an intriguing book. Donna is struggling through the death of her father and the ripple effect that death had on her family. In the course of her struggles, she finds that she finds it soothing to help others with their grief and sorrow. She is determined to enroll in school to be a mortician though her family seem to feel it's a terribly unhealthy and horrible decision.
Donna's story is so interesting to me. I love that there aren't any books on this topic, and I really really love
Adria Goetz
Jan 19, 2016 Adria Goetz rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the best-written books I've read in a while. This is the quintessence of a coming-of-age story. The story was layered, the characters were interesting and lovable, the dialogue was realistic. Donna is flawed. So, so flawed. And so, so real. I can't think of another character I've read that feels as real as Donna. Her relationship with her mother is real and complex and messy. Donna is so unique and original and refreshing. I related to her extreme introverted orientation so much, that I s ...more
Dec 16, 2014 Angie rated it really liked it
I could never be a mortician, but that didn't stop me from reading about one! In Putting Makeup on Dead People, Donna is just kind of floating through life. Her father died three years ago, and obviously nothing is the same. But now she's a senior and her future is coming sooner rather than later. She thought she had a plan: go to the University of Dayton like her brother and study Communications. Then a classmate dies, and Donna finds her calling. She's much more comfortable around the dead tha ...more
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Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Jen Violi has since made her home in such places as Dayton, OH, Goodyear, AZ, New Orleans, LA, and Takoma Park, MD. Jen has currently staked her claim in Portland, Oregon, where the greenery is plentiful, the creative spirit palpable, and the fresh coffee available every few feet -- just how she likes it. At the University of Dayton, Jen completed both a BA in En ...more
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“My heart broke when he died, split in half and fell down into my stomach or somewhere deep and muddy, and I'm still not sure where it is now. I hear it beating sometimes in my ears, or feel its fast pulse in my neck, like I do now; but in my chest, where it should be, it mostly just feels empty.” 17 likes
“Everything is art,' Tim says, a far-off look suddenly clouding those hazel eyes. 'Death is art. Life is art. Pain is art.” 9 likes
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