Book Review: Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi

Title: Putting Makeup on Dead People
Author: Jen Violi
Details: Hardcover, 336 pgs.
Published: May 24th, 2011 by Hyperion
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Hyperion *for review*


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.

This book was one of those books that makes you laugh and then it makes you cry (just a tiny bit!) and it leaves you feeling just a bit more.  Do you know what I mean?  Maybe not.  But I think I felt a bit more alive after reading it.  
Some people don’t know who or what they are.  They grow up feeling like they are searching for something.  Sometimes they don’t know they are searching until they know they’ve found it.  And that’s kind of how it is for Donna.  She realizes she knows she’s meant to be a mortician.  Even if her peers think it’s weird, even if her mother thinks she’s just depressed, she just knows.  And through this book we watch as Donna grieves her father, finds love, finds true friends, and finds herself.  
I feel like this book had a lot of good and I never disliked it at all, but I think at times my eyes started to gloss over a bit and I would realized I was feeling bored.  But those moments were in-between the giggles where we were seeing hints of the awesome that Donna really was and the tears when we felt Donna’s pain and struggle.  I guess I could say I felt some ‘eh’ in there.  But overall it was a decent read and I can say it was definitely well wrote with some very different and unique characters.

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Disclosure: I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own and I was not paid or influenced in any way.
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  1. Very nice review. Just from the title, it sounds like something that will give you a little bit of laughs and tears. Added to the wishlist. May have some down moments, but I love unique and interesting characters and this definitely sounds like it will have a few. Thank you so much for the review hon :)

  2. Very interesting premise. I’ve never seen a YA tackle a teen who wants to go into mortuary sciences. I knew a girl who wanted to be a funeral director, and how everyone kind of steered clear of her once they found out her career goals. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how Violi tackles this. Thanks for the rec!


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