Hyperion Book CH
May 24, 2011
Putting Makeup on Dead People is a debut, by Jen Violi, that should have gotten so much more attention—so much more. Since her father’s death four years earlier, Donna has been just going through the motions; isolated from everyone with no real friends, without a real relationship with her mother, and with no idea what she wants to do after high school’s over.
That all changes, though, while at a classmates funeral. Standing by the coffin, Donna realizes there just might be something for her, comforting people in death. She just might want to be a mortician.
The discovery sets Donna’s new life in motion. She makes friends with a new student, notices a boy – who might be noticing her, too – and throws herself into mortuary studies. Despite what her mother will think.
By taking risks and doing what she really wants, Donna looks to discover who she really is – the girl who was hidden under all that grief for the past several years.
Putting Makeup on Dead People is a novel about transformation and self-discovery in possibly the most unique guise I’ve ever seen (or, rather, read). Jen Violi has found a super innovative way of dealing with death, grief, and moving on. It’s easy to get so wrapped in the story of what Donna wants to do, what she is doing, that you don’t realize it’s a story about her growth – it becomes simply a story about Donna.
Violi writes Putting Makeup so well that her prose seems easy. It just flows. Nothing’s choppy or stumbles. It’s …easy.
I really loved that Donna wanted to be something unique (to her and the characters) that actually was unique. There are times when someone in a book wants to be something that is supposed to be terribly different but really they just don’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer, etc. Donna wanting to be a mortician actually is a bit different and I enjoyed that. I also enjoyed that it wasn’t treated as a joke and was researched, treated with respect.
Jen Violi’s debut was definitely a lot more under the radar than most its season/year but definitely not due to its quality.