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Viola in Reel Life Hardcover – September 1, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Grade 7–9—Viola's parents dumped her in the middle of nowhere. Well maybe "nowhere" isn't exactly true and perhaps "dumped" is too strong a word. As documentary filmmakers, her parents follow their stories. While they are filming in Afghanistan, they send their daughter to Prefect Academy for Young Women in South Bend, IN. Away from her home and friends in Brooklyn, Viola has resolved to be miserable. Her only comfort is in her daily IM conversations with her BFF, Andrew, and her personal video diary, "The Viola Reels." Then she meets her roommates, who are too great to be indifferent toward. Her constant video-camera-toting lands her on committees for school functions. To top it all off she meets a boy who shares her interest at a school dance. Suddenly, the ninth grader is happy, busy, and feeling at home. She even enters a film competition. Through the help and support of her friends and family, it could just be the short film of her dreams, maybe even good enough to win the competition. Viola in Reel Life is a sweet, character-driven story. Viola is very real, as are her feelings, hopes, desires, and dreams. There is not a lot of action, but the relationships portrayed in the book make it well worth reading.—Melyssa Malinowski, Kenwood High School, Baltimore, MD END
“A cold, snowy winter, a ghost mystery, kisses, cookies, roommates, a video diary, a film competition, and Viola’s crack-me-up-every time observations all make this an endearing coming of age story…exceptionally fun.” (Richie's Picks)
“A sweet, character-driven story. Viola is very real, as are her feelings, hopes, desires, and dreams.” (School Library Journal)
“This book reminds each of us that a fish out of water really can find a new pond! Read it to remind yourself that your friends really do teach you something new every day.” (Justine Magazine)
“Sarah Dessen for middle school…Trigiani deftly shows that teenage girls can be independent, have positive self-images, and be happy.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))
“Best-selling adult author Trigiani nicely captures boarding-school bonding, adolescent female insecurities, and current teen trends. Fun, breezy, and full of subtle life lessons, this is a good follow-up or prequel to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.” (Booklist)
“Trigiani (Big Stone Gap) takes the familiar boarding school milieu and gives it some welcome nuance and a refreshingly grounded feel in her debut YA work. [She] offers a realistic look at the ever–shifting bonds of friendship and the adjustment to one’s first taste of life away from home.” (Publishers Weekly)
Top customer reviews
Viola has no interest in going to an all girls' school and even less interest in being shipped off to Indiana. But she can still talk to her BFF Andrew via instant message when she needs to and her video diary is her one stable outlet. When she meets her roommates, she realizes just how out of her element she is. The girls are nice, but she is not ready to really let them in.
Slowly but surely, the girls worming their way into Viola's life. It takes a few false starts, but eventually, they are able to make her realize they are there for her. Once she lets them in, she sees just how much she missed having a friend to share everything with, especially now that Andrew has a girlfriend and isn't available like he used to be. But a dance at the local boys' school finds Viola with a boyfriend, and amazingly enough, a boyfriend who is into films as well! But Reel Life isn't always what you expect it to be.
When I first started this book, I didn't realize it was about a 9th grade girl. I thought it was more young adult than the middle reader it turned out to be, so I think my misconception made it difficult for me to enjoy this book fully. I like a good middle reader, but sometimes this book felt too juvenile and too cliche for me. For instance, Viola's roommates are too mature, clear-headed, and rational for 9th grade girls. I can buy one, maybe two girls, but all of them? I have spent time in the girls' dorm at our school. I have never seen that many rational girls that age in one place! Girls that age get their feelings hurt and snipe at one another and hold grudges. They don't rationalize and openly discuss each other's shortcoming without some relational aggression thrown in for good measure. I guess sometimes I felt like these characters were more caricatures than representations of real people.
And Viola herself was hard to really like. I saw her transformation and how she grew up over the course of the year, but some of her "big lessons" were too rushed or improperly explained. Mostly she seemed very young and very naive about life (like how her parents' financial situation really was). I think this book would be good for a young girl, mostly middle school to a super immature 9th grader. I think most older girls are going to see through these characters too easily to care much about the book. Although, the film aspect is certainly interesting, it doesn't float the whole novel.
She finally makes friends and does join in several social activities which makes her stay liveable.
When her parents finally come to pick her up at the end of the school year she can look back and see the difference in her life.