Sara's Reviews > Putting Makeup on Dead People

Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi
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Jul 31, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: ya-lit
Read in January, 2011

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 The younger sister, Linnie, is rebellious in the form of wild hair color choices, and Donna herself is slightly withdrawn and maybe a little morose. Only the eldest brother seems to have cleanly moved on succeeding at college and a healthy relationship.

It was a quiet novel. What starts as Donna being portrayed as a quiet girl is slowly revealed to be a girl changed by her father’s early death. She’s very much in her own head throughout the book. I think that’s why you don’t notice how little interaction with others Donna really has; I felt like at first she could just be super quiet. Her reactions to things are quirky and unexpected. When her new BF Liz is called a ‘spitfire’ Donna asks if this means Liz is like a dragon. Perceptive, yes…normal response, no. Donna’s mother would like nothing more than to see her daughter at the local University of Dayton working towards a degree in communications. Apparently under the misunderstanding that a communications degree will help Donna learn to interact with people better, lol. But it’s this unusual view, the inability to present to the world what they want to hear that allows her to become such a sympathetic mortician.

Yep, Donna’s great goal in life is to become a mortician. Lets just say that a girl withdrawn after her father’s death becoming obsessed with a career in funerals freaks everyone out. Freaks! But seeing how well Donna takes to the job’s unusual skill set, how happy the job makes her, clears away any stray thoughts of the depressing. It also helps that the brothers running the local funeral home are happy, normal, and super supportive. It was cool to see the insight into this career the book gave. It really seems like it could be super rewarding…That is if you can get over putting the makeup on dead people.

Also the afore-mentioned best friend, Liz, really jump starts Donna’s transformation. Liz helps bring Donna back into a relationship with her Aunt Selena who is a witch. Another sub-theme of this book is a discussion of religion. Donna’s family are devout Catholic. Thus, Aunt Selena has been banned from the family because of her Wiccan religion. While Aunt Selena’s views on life may not be Donna’s, a big part of Donna’s coming of age is understanding her own religious viewpoint and how it may differ in some ways from her traditional upbringing.

Like I said, this was a quiet read. I think it remained realistic and could have a great impact on someone if read at the right time in their life. Someone on the brink of change, heading off to college or dealing with the death of a loved one. For myself, while I understood the text, and felt for the characters…it didn’t pack as big of a punch. Though I’ll chalk it up to reading it at the wrong time. Put this one in your back pocket for a rainy afternoon or a suggestion for a teen dealing with a lot of change in their life.

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07/31/2011 page 50
15.0% "kinda weird...but enjoyable ;)"
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