Author: Jen Violi
Published: May 24, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
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.
Donna lost her father far too young. Where other kids her age aren't familiar with death and dying, Donna is all-too familiar with it, and finds the dark shadow of her father's passing looming over everything. She watches her brother get on with his life, but she feels stuck. That is, until she revisits the funeral home for a classmate's funeral and discovers a man who makes the dead beautiful in the end - a mortician. She finds there's something oddly comforting about him and oddly peaceful about her job. Finding her way down a different path, Donna starts finding something she's passionate about again, and finds that she might just be able to move on while honouring her dad's memory.
Putting Makeup on Dead People is the depiction of a girl's journey through grief and finding her way back to true life again. Written from Donna's point of view, we're given direct access to the turmoil and pain she feels as she pretends to be happy and normal every day. Jen Violi has written a heartfelt book that steps outside the box and rethinks the grief process, giving life to a character that dares to grieve and move forward in a way all her own. With touches of humour in the midst of a moving, genuine story, Putting Makeup on Dead People is a story that's sure to touch hearts along the way.
I have to say, however, that Putting Makeup on Dead People is not a perfect book, unfortunately. While I love the premise and setup for the story. The first few chapters are tedious. The character introductions are heavy and often cliche. For example, having Liz and Charlie be the extroverted polar opposites of Donna from the second chapter was a bit of a dead giveaway. That could be forgiven, however, if we'd actually got to know them better. It's a shame they remained mere sketches because I feel they could truly have impacted Donna's journey through Putting Makeup on Dead People. That said, Donna and her mother (once we got to know them) were both poignant and powerful. I definitely could feel a connection with Donna's internal struggles. Honestly, the true problem with Putting Makeup on Dead People was pacing. Because it had a great message and an even better premise, it's a shame that the book was sort of stop-and-go.
All in all, Putting Makeup on Dead People is a good read. While not great, it still managed to get a message across and portray themes of life, love and finding peace with oneself without seeming overtly preachy. I give it a 3 out of 5, and I'd recommend it to fans of YA fiction, and especially those who enjoy contemporary stories.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.