Putting Makeup on Dead People Review

Monday, August 1, 2011

Title: Putting Makeup on Dead People
Author: Jen Violi
Publisher: Hyperion
Published: May 24, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher

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.


  1. I liked Putting Makeup on Dead People, but I do agree that the beginning was a bit slow. The concept was fabulous, though! And I did like Donna.
    Great review, Melissa! :)

  2. Sorry to hear you had some problems with this one. I've been really intrigued by the premise though. I'm usually really big on characters so i'm not sure if i'll like it...but I'll keep an eye out anyway. Thanks for the review! ^-^


  3. Oh that sucks that the pacing was off. Sounds like it could have been amazing if it was right. Another great review though Melissa :)

  4. Bummer! The premise is super interesting too! It sounds like it could have so much potential. Maybe someone else will pick up this plot line and do a twisted, creepy one that's better.

  5. I saw that you were reading this, and I was eager for the review. Great job and thanks for posting.

  6. I've been wanting to read this one. I think I'll like it even though it wasn't great.

  7. Too bad on the stop-and-go nature of this one, that's always a bit difficult to deal with and I can never truly get into the story when that happens. Sounds like it has a great message that's not all in your face though, so maybe I'll still give it a try when the TBR list calms down a bit:)

  8. My best friend, for some strange reason, wants to be a mortician. I will definitely get her this book when I get some cash.

  9. I love that cover, and I love the title - there is something sardonic about it that just makes it stick out for me. Reminds me a bit of an HBO series ad. It sounds like the characterization wasn't fully realized in some spots, but I'm glad to know that it's still a decent read. Thanks for the great review, Melissa!


  10. Yeah, not sure if I'm going to read this book. It just sounds okay, and I think fans of contemporary stories will def. enjoy this one. I'm not a big fan of those stories. ;) Great review.

  11. I don't mind a slow beginning (a tedious slog is not so great, though) but if it continues to stop and start, my attention is gone. Still, it's got an interesting premise and it got a 3 from you so I think I might give it a shot. Great review!
    Mary @ Book Swarm

  12. I saw this one on NetGalley and debated reading it. The book didn't really seem my type. I'm glad to hear that overall you enjoyed it even though the first few chapters dragged. I hate when that happens though!

  13. Hmmm this book seemed mehh to me so Ill probably pass this one....

    Holy Geez Melissa- you read like flash lightning!!I cant keep up with your reviews...;D

  14. I've never seen any reviews on this one, though the title caught my interest. I'm not sure if I'll pick it up now... but thanks for the review! :)

  15. This sounds interesting but the too coincidental personalities of Liz and Charlie would drive me crazy. I don't like it when authors choose to make strong stereotypical personalities of friends of love interests.

  16. Thanks for such an honest review. This will prob be one i wait on and get from the library. I do like the cover though very interesting.

  17. Yeah, I felt the same way about this book. Some of the things done in this book sort of disturb me. Nice review!

  18. I like books with messages, but not if they are shoved down our throats. Glad to hear the theme in this book across nicely. Sorry to hear about the cliched characters. Still, this one sounds interesting! Great review :)

  19. Love the premise so it's a shame that it didn't quite live up to it. But I do think I'd love the message of the book too!

  20. I usually feel the same way you do about books, so a 3 is worth reading it. I really love the idea behind it. It's twisted and that...I like.:D Excellent review, Melissa!

    In the Closet With a Bibliophile

  21. The name is really catchy, makes you read it twice. However, pacing can kill a story. That was a really great honest review. Don't know if I'll read this one or not, the lessons are probably something we all need to learn. Great review!



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