Saturday, April 30, 2011

Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi

Donna's father died three and a half years ago.  Now she's getting ready to graduate from high school and she considering...mortuary school.  Her friends think she's crazy.  Her mother is upset and doesn't want her to go.  Everyone thinks Donna is obsessed with death and isn't over her father dying.  While Donna might not be over her father dying, she's interested in mortuary school because she wants to help people to their final resting place.  And she's determined to make that happen.

This was so different from any other YA I've read!  YA involving mortuary school.  And it's not supernatural.  I really enjoyed it.  It was very sweet, which might sound weird, considering the topic, but it really was.

Donna clearly still misses her father.  She has not been able to really move on, but she hasn't had to.  She is comfortable in her small world, not really doing very much and keeping mostly to herself.  In her senior year she befriends a new girl, Liz, who doesn't care what people think of her and helps Donna to get outside her shell more.  Liz is a great friend, but what I liked the most was how as Donna comes into her own, she doesn't need to rely on Liz as much.  She doesn't need Liz to make things happen for her forever, which is good.  But Liz helped her get to that point.

When Donna tells her mother she's going to mortuary school, her mother is very upset.  She's concerned about her.  She thinks that maybe she's depressed.  Donna ends up moving out and into the spare room at the mortuary in town while in school.  This is the first thing that puts a strain on the relationship between her and her mother.  The second thing is her mother gets a boyfriend.  A really nice guy, but Donna can't deal with it.  She still misses her father too much, and while she wants her mother to be happy, she just can't handle it.  She and her mother pretty much stop speaking.

Donna is in her first year of mortuary school, and I appreciated that we actually got to learn about the classes she would take and the kind of things she would do.  I never gave much thought what went into mortuary training.  It was interesting.  And it has a very spiritual side, which I hadn't really thought about.  I guess I just assumed it would be all business.  Donna is searching for her spiritual side, with the help of her estranged Aunt Selena (who no one in the family talks to because she's a "witch").  Donna is able to create her own spiritual ceremony to help herself move on and be happy for her mother and for her own future.

There's also the usually issues of a young girl: relationship, siblings, etc.  Donna is at first dating this guy who is CLEARLY a bit of a jerk and I was very glad when she walked away and ::Spoiler::(but not really because you totally know it's going to happen) and ends up with her friend Charlie, who is awesome.

I guess since there's a lot of discussion of death, some people might find it a little morbid, but I wasn't bothered by it.  It was very respectful.  Donna and the other people who work at the funeral home do prepare bodies and it is described (not in super detail) getting them ready by embalming and putting on makeup so they bodies are ready for viewings, so if the thought makes you squeamish this might not be the book for you.  But it also talks about how the preparation is for the mourners, who have come to say goodbye, and how it's not just about preparing bodies, but knowing the right things to say to people who are experiencing grief.

Putting Makeup on Dead People comes out May 24.  I definitely recommend it.


  1. I just finished this one too, I really enjoyed it. My only critique would be that the secondary characters were a little one-dimensional. But I think it's because Donna was so a fully developed character. I have to admit that I'm sad you reviewed this before me. I really loved this book.

  2. Nice review. I just requested this one from NetGalley because it sounded interesting. So good to know you liked it. :)
    New follower (from book blogs)


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