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Putting Makeup on Dead People Hardcover – May 24, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Jen Violi has now 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. Thanks to the Universities of Dayton and New Orleans, Jen got to study English, theatre, theology, and creative writing. With reverence for the healing power of stories, Jen runs her own business, offering creative writing coaching, workshops, and retreats.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion Book CH; 1St Edition edition (May 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423134818
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423134817
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,208,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jane Pellicciotto on June 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I don't normally read YA fiction. But I felt like the struggle Donna experienced as she tried to find her voice in this world was applicable to anyone of any age. In fact, I found myself envious and wishing I'd tried that hard at such a young age to figure out and honor who I was. Most importantly, it felt real to me.

This story had a satisfying completeness that didn't feel gimicky or forced. At first I couldn't easily reconcile Donna's flair for humor and sarcasm with her angst about what and who to be. But as I read, and the character took shape, it not only became very believable, but Donna is well-done sketch of how most of us walk around with walls and barriers and conflicting sides of us. We can be hard-edged but hurting inside. We have hidden good parts of us that only some people can see. We struggle to honor our gifts and that pull from inside that tugs us towards something bigger and better.

Violi illustrates so well a character that takes emotional risks and ignores conventions, but not so easily, which is what makes the story work so well.

These are universal struggles, and in this book, these ideas, and more, are beautifully and humorously expressed through the voice of a teenager who experienced great loss and is hungering to transform into a person she secretly knows she can be.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This unique coming of age story delivers wit as well as heartbreak. Though it is a YA novel, it's themes are relevant and interesting for adult audiences as well. Of course, if you've ever been curious about the inner working of a funeral home, this offers a glimpse into that world, also. While it would be easy to take a mocking approach to that work, the author treats the subject of mortuary work directly, with a lot of heart and humor that punches up, rather than down. Loss, growth and complex family dynamics are explored as main character Donna graduates high school and tries to find her place in the world. This piece of fiction has one of the best qualities I think fiction can have, which is that it feels absolutely real and true.
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Format: Hardcover
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. Donna grows up and finds herself along the way.

This is a nice contemporary coming of age novel with an interesting premise. I enjoyed reading about Donna's life and the mortuary industry. It's nice reading a book about a teenager who is moving into adulthood and while experiencing bumps along the way, she ultimately knows what they want and work towards it. This isn't a sweet and cute story but rather a coming of age novel about a girl moving through life after the death of her father.

Appropriateness: There is quite a bit of adult content in this book. Donna fumbles through a couple relationships which become sexual (although there are no erotic descriptions), there is drinking and drunkenness. Donna is an older teen and behaves like one. I would recommend this book to older teenagers 15+

ARC received from netgalley.
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Format: Hardcover
Putting Makeup on Dead People drew me in from the very first page. I enjoyed the mixture of sadness, humor, and tenderness; right along with Donna, the protagonist, I was pushed and pulled from emotion to emotion, which is one of the most satisfying parts of reading a book. Also, I liked the freshness of the plot details. There aren't many books for teenagers about potential female morticians out there...this is the only one, as far as I know.

The only thing that startled me about the book as I was reading it was it being written in present tense. I can see that's a trend in newer fiction, but it's still a little unsettling to read.

The time period of the setting isn't clear, but it didn't bother me; it merely means the book will age well, without any forced terminology updates like other authors' work (like Judy Blume's) has undergone.

I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys YA fiction, whether it's an actual young adult or an adult (like me) who enjoys being transported back to when everything was so much more intense and vital.
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Format: Hardcover
Donna Parisi's dad died three-and-a-half years ago, right before she started high school. Now high school is almost over and Donna is still dealing (or more accurately, not dealing) with overwhelming grief. She feels so empty, sad and alone. And even though Donna has learned to get through her days pretending she doesn't have a hollow space where her heart used to be, nothing really seems to matter to her anymore. Not until the day of Lila Cardoza's funeral. On that day, Donna discovers two things that are capable of bringing meaning to her life. The first is her new friend, the confident and interesting Liz. The second is that Donna finally has an answer for all those people who ask, 'what do you want to do with your life after high school.' What Donna wants to do is become a mortician.

It was so easy to forget, when I was reading this book, that Putting Makeup on Dead People is Jen Violi's first novel. The prose is so liquid and the emotions so honest. I loved the idea of the novel - Donna finding her way out of grief and into the happier life she was meant to live - and the way the themes of transformation, and of the ritual of letting go to move forward were so expertly and seamlessly woven into the cloth of the story. Donna's transformation doesn't happen overnight, but no one recovers from a profound and crippling grief in a few days or a few weeks and Donna's slow movement into the rest of her life felt right.

One of the best things about this book is how well Ms. Violi handles the sensitive subjects of death and mortuary science. As one of Donna's teachers puts it, Americans are experts at doing everything they can to avoid death, even though it is the one thing in life that's guaranteed.
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