Putting Makeup on Dead People

Putting Makeup on Dead People
Author(s)
Publisher
Age Range
12+
Release Date
June 01, 2011
ISBN
978-1423134817
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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.

Editor review

1 review
Coming of Age Tale
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
N/A
Characters
 
N/A
Writing Style
 
4.0
During the spring of Donna Parisi's senior year, she finds herself at a funeral of a classmate. It's been four years since the death of her own father. Donna still hasn't been able to deal with the loss but somehow being at her classmate's funeral, she finds herself drawn to the whole idea of working in a funeral home.

Her mother has plans for Donna that don't include her becoming a mortician. But Donna finds comfort in knowing she can reach out to others who have lost a loved one. She feels at peace in the funeral home. Will Donna find the courage and strength to take a big risk and do what she feels is right? Or will she bow down to what others feel is best for her?

I was surprised at first with this novel. I thought it would be a paranormal tale. Instead I found a coming of age story of a girl who finally finds what she wants and the courage to take a huge risk. The voice is at times funny and also felt genuine. I could kind of relate with Donna as when I was a teen my own mother didn't want me to go to my 'dream' university either. And yes, it's hard to stand up to adults and say, hey, this is what I want. The author does a great job showing us the conflict and struggles Donna goes through with not only her mother but friends. I also found the information on what a mortician does fascinating. Who knew they went to their own college?

The relationship between Donna and her friends is also real. I liked how she struggles with what she really wants in a boyfriend. Does she want to stay with the hot but airy Tim? Or go with her high school friend Charlie who happens to be Pro-Earth?

This book is also about transformations. How do you say goodbye without losing yourself? Also it shows how Donna was able to turn a tragic loss into a gift to help others who are grieving. Plus I love the little details that are woven throughout this book on things like how to respect the dead's wishes on what they wear to the color of makeup to use. One very hilarious scene in the book shows them putting makeup on a woman who's last request is to be made up to look like the sexiest vampire chick you can imagine.

An interesting twist on the whole dead premise.
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User reviews

1 review
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0(1)
Characters
 
5.0(1)
Writing Style
 
4.0(1)
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Finding her way
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
First Impressions: I’ve been reading a lot of paranormal young adult books lately, which deals with all matters of undead creatures, vampires and zombies, for example. But, I had never read a book about just plain old dead people, so the premise of this book intrigued me.

First 50 Pages: I love books where I can relate to the characters. I was immediately able to relate to Donna in so many ways. All of the characters are likable and lifelike, but some of the characters I felt could have been well-developed, but didn’t quite make it to that stage. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The Plot & Style of Writing: There isn’t much of a plot line here, which would usually bother me when reading a book. Putting Makeup on Dead People is an exception. It reads almost like a memoir of Donna’s life after her father passes away from cancer. Life has no plot line, especially when dealing with death and grief. Every person handles those two things in their own way. For some people, it takes years to overcome their grief. Other people may never release their pain, and others bury it deep down inside and never show their emotions. This story is really a story of a young woman overcoming and dealing with her father’s death, finding out her true calling in life. You can’t have a plot line for something like that. Being a teenager and graduation is a scary and difficult time in a teenager’s life. They must choose what they want to accomplish after high school has ended and face what is coming next. The author captures this important time in Donna’s life and shows anyone who reads this book that they can make their own choices, with or without the immediate approval of their parents. My parents for example, were always set on me becoming a nurse. So, I went to nursing school and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. But, I hated the line of work. Now, I go to school for something I truly love. Parents don’t always know what is best. Donna’s mother is a perfect example of how a parent can be wrong, which is okay; parents are only human too.

Characters: Donna is a very complex, well developed character who faces many difficult choices for the present and her future. Donna tries to balance life and death, cultivates her own sense of herself and who she really is, instead of what everyone wants her to be. She faces adversary from her mother, who doesn’t want her going to mortuary school and from her friends who think she is strange for wanting to work at a funeral home. As a reader, you can track Donna’s progression from a child to a young woman throughout this book. She starts out as a timid, semi-religious girl, overcome with grief, and blossoms into a woman who is sure of who she is and what she truly wants out of life.

Donna’s mother bothered me a little bit, probably because she reminds me so much of my own mother when I was Donna’s age. She is close-minded, religious, and strict. In my opinion, she is a bit too strict for a 17 almost 18 year old girl. But, I think it is mostly her over protectiveness that irked me at first. We watch her grow as well throughout the book. Donna isn’t the only character who blossoms in this story.

The other characters in the book, Liz, Charlie, Tim, and Aunt Sylvie, could have been more developed. We do hear a lot from them, especially Liz and Donna’s aunt, but they aren’t focused on as much as I would have liked them to be. Aunt Sylvie had an immense amount of potential to be a really interesting and influential character, but she didn’t live up to my expectations and Liz, I felt the same way. Tim and Charlie are important characters for their own reasons, but we don’t see much coming from those characters either.

My Final Thoughts: Putting Makeup on Dead People is a wonderful book about overcoming life’s obstacles, grief, and dealing with death. There are only two certainties in life: Death and Taxes. I am so glad to have read a book that isn’t afraid of dealing with death. Death is another taboo topic not many people want to speak about, even though it is guaranteed for every living being on this planet. Jen Violi does a fantastic job bringing the topics of death and grief into the young adult genre without the need for undead creatures, like so many other young adult books. I really enjoyed this book.
Good Points
Interesting plot
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