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Putting Makeup on Dead People

Putting Makeup on Dead People

4.5 21
by Jen Violi

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Since Donna's father died, she prefers to go inside herself to a "quiet place.... the only spot I feel at home," until she finds another comfortable place—a funeral home—and decides to become a mortician. But even as Donna applies to mortuary school after high school and starts work at Brighton Brothers Funeral Home, she must learn to connect with the living, including her well-meaning but disapproving mother and an offbeat friend who may be crushing on her. Readers will find Donna's job choice intriguing, as well as the descriptions of her education, including restorative arts class, where "people in lab coats are working with what I think is clay, shaping it into things I have to squint to realize are parts of the human face." Violi's first novel is swimming in unusual characters, from the people—both living and dead—who pass through the funeral home, to the eccentric members of Donna's church drama troupe. These characters and their many plot lines distract from Donna's journey to embrace both those around her and those who have died. Ages 14–up. (May)
Kirkus Reviews

Here's a teen novel with a unique premise: High-school senior Donna decides she wants to become a mortician.

Donna has experience with death. Her beloved father died of cancer when she was 14, and she's had some trouble relating to others since that event. When a classmate dies in an accident, Donna attends the viewing in the same funeral home that her family had used for her father, and she becomes fascinated by the procedures there. How do they get the makeup so right? She finds that the corpses do not frighten her. The mortuary feels like home. Against her mother's strongly expressed wishes, she decides to go to mortician's school instead of the Catholic college that has already accepted her. As she rebels against her mother, she meets a boy who seems interested in her and starts a relationship based mostly on sexual attraction, leaving her secret crush on another boy unfulfilled. Meanwhile she moves in to the "student's room" at the mortuary, confidently awaiting her embalming class. Although some wry comedy seeps into the narrative, Donna's focus, and the book's, remains on respecting the dead people and easing the grief of their families. As Donna learns how to care for dead people she also begins to care for living ones.

A book that looks at death and reveals much about life. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.62(w) x 8.46(h) x 1.10(d)
HL820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Jen Violi has now staked her claim in Portland, Oregon, where the greenery is plentiful, the creative spirit palpable, and the fresh coffee available every few feet-just how she likes it. Thanks to the Universities of Dayton and New Orleans, Jen got to study English, theatre, theology, and creative writing. With reverence for the healing power of stories, Jen runs her own business, offering creative writing coaching, workshops, and retreats.

Visit the author's website at www.jenvioli.com.

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Putting Makeup on Dead People 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
BookBags More than 1 year ago
As a librarian and avid reader, I read a lot of books. It's worth noting that the books that I have been enjoying the most, those that are touching, engaging, worth while and tell a good story have been, more often than not, in the YA genre. Jen Violi's first young adult novel is no different. It's hard not to relate to Donna, as your 17 year old self or even as your 30+ year old self. Donna's issues with her family, finding friends worth the effort, acceptance by peers and feeling like you just can't figure out where you belong are relatable at any age. Donna's journey is funny, touching, realistic and sweet. Add this book to your summer reading list. You won't be disppointed. Additionally, the gorgeous cover art may find you a friend or 2 in at the beach, the park, or the public transportation that you frequent, as folks will be captivated by both the picture and the title. A great first book! I can't wait to read what Jen has for us next!
JCAK More than 1 year ago
The word I've heard most to describe Jen Violi's debut novel is "heartfelt." Frankly it's hard to find another word to sum it up so succinctly. Compassionate, Sincere, Emotional, Honest, Hopeful, Sentimental, Funny, Unique... these all work too, but heartfelt seems to have the most breadth. The author paints a mural of likable characters on the path of life, faltering and floundering and doing their best to make it despite great loss and great complications. With flecks of humor and levity scattered throughout, Violi leads the reader on a journey of self-discovery, like it or not. How do you feel about death? How do you feel about God? How do you feel about ritual? How do you feel about family? How do you feel about destiny? Fate? Love? Loss? It's all in there and it's all well-orchestrated in a lovely story about a 17-year old we can all relate to in some way. Although this book is classified as Young Adult, I do not classify myself that way (much as I would like to!) and I would recommend this book to adults of all ages and to teens 15+ (don't think I'm ready for my 14-year old niece to read the back-seat car sequence just yet...) I can't wait to see what Violi gives us next!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sweet, funny, not to mention sexy, and altogether a really good book about a girl about to graduate from high school, exploring all the neccesarys ( wink, wink ;) ) and discovering a job she loves
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
thereaderbee More than 1 year ago
I really didn¿t know what to expect when I started reading Putting Makeup on Dead People, Jen Violi¿s debut young adult novel. Given the subject line, I was worried this book was going to be a bit grim. It wasn¿t. The book is very original, I can¿t say that I have read anything quite like it up to this point. The main character, Donna, is very well written. Although she¿s grieving and sad, she still has a humorous side. She¿s pretty much an introvert, and I can totally relate to that. I was a little worried in the beginning that she was going to be a whiney character, but she definitely grew throughout the book. She knew what she wanted to do with her future, and she went after it, even when it¿s not the future her mother wants for her. I admire that. The secondary characters were ok, but were not as in-depth as Donna. I like Charlie, and wish we could have known more about her friend Liz. Kudos to the mom, we really see her grow throughout the book. The pacing in the book is a bit slow, but I still managed to read the book pretty quickly. The storyline is unique and believable. I would probably recommend this book to the older YA crowd, because it does have some talk of sex in it. There is also some religious talk in the book. I know some people are bothered by that, but it didn¿t bother me at all. Overall, this is a quick, and very unique read that I really enjoyed!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun and bittersweet read for young adults and old adults alike!
The_Reading_Housewives More than 1 year ago
Before I even had an inkling as to what Putting Makeup on Dead People was about, the cover and title drew me in. I assumed because of these two things, it was going to have something to do with death. Of course, Putting Makeup on Dead People involves death in a couple different ways. I want to give props to Jen Violi for having Donna, our protagonist in Putting Makeup on Dead People, have an interest in mortuary science. It was unique from anything I've read before, so I loved reading about it even though it was a bit creepy at times. The weird obituary style death notes(only way I can describe it) throughout the book added something else different and unique to Putting Makeup on Dead People and it also added some humor to the story for me. Another reason Jen Violi needs props is because Donna is older...18 and heading off to college. Donna has many decisions to decide on at the end of high school and she decides on being a mortician, which goes against what her mother wants. Everyone around her still thinks she's stuck on her father having passed 4 years prior. Liz ends up turning out to be a new and great best friend for Donna and helps her learn some things about herself along the way. Jen writes sex with teens in a real way. Many of the thoughts Donna had about sex, I remember having felt myself looking back on it now. I appreciate her adding those situations and thoughts into Putting Makeup on Dead People. A couple of different boys make an appearance here and I think having both shows how much Donna grows and changes during these pages. One side plot through the story I almost thought was pointless. In a way I can see why it was added and at the same time I feel like it could have been omitted. I almost wanted to just read over the pages that contained what I'm speaking of. I'm not telling you what bothered me, I'm hoping you can decide for yourself if you think it's needed or not. The book is still a good read whether it's there or not. Putting Makeup on Dead People touches on many ways as a society we deal with death. It puts a new spin on dealing with a parent who has passed away.
Seamusmee More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Violi creates a world full of characters i could not help but invest all my emotions in. I actually found myself yelling at Donna to stop her from making a poor choice. I devoured the story and could not put it down. I look forward to more of Violi's work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very enjoyable book illustrating how a teenage girl not only charts her own path, but insists that those around her accept that path! A great story written by a great story teller that reminds me of the great Judy Blume novels of my formiddable years!!
meemae More than 1 year ago
I found this book poignant, funny, and delicious. Violi has a delicate touch with words, and she draws her characters with humanity and humor. I have given this book to several friends and my book club has read it and loved it. If you can't already tell, I highly recommend this YA book for all ages.
BooksWithBite More than 1 year ago
What I like most about this book was her self discovery. Donna has been through so much with losing her father at a young age. She tried to relate or feel in the moment.She took lots of risk, some I don't even approve of or liked, but in the end, she found who she needed to be, herself. Now with I don't approve of. I know that when a teenager rebels, they rebel. And granted the whole situation was not her fault but what I didn't like was the fact that she liked it. Donna is a great character, whom learn a great life lesson. She found the one she was truly meant to be with and held on to it. She learn to forgive and let things go, so she could move on with her life. She also learn who she was and stuck with what she love. I loved walking along with Donna to see her become someone new. I would not recommend this book for a young teen. There is a lot of cursing and while there is no sex, there is still some pretty heavy messing around*
epicrat More than 1 year ago
Putting Makeup On Dead People is too remarkable for me to properly express what a great time I had with this book. I love the message behind this book. I love how much it stands out among everything else I have been reading as far as contemporary YA goes. Putting Makeup On Dead People is a quiet and quirky book. No teenaged craziness of popularity schemes, crushes and break-ups, partying til the break of the dawn. Just an introverted girl who wants to find her purpose in life and finds it at a funeral home to the dismay of her mother. The life that Donna steps into is fascinating and unexpected. Who knew that being a mortician is both science and art? That it takes a special person to know what to say to the grieving at such an emotional time? To appreciate, to console, to understand, and simply to be there for that person or family? Of course, there's more to the real life than death - and Donna also has to adjust to the transition from high school to "real world" and college. She envies the new girl Liz who wins everyone over with her positive energy. She remains clueless about Charlie's interest to be more than friends, but falls somehow into a lackluster relationship with someone else. As Donna tries to balance life and death into a happy medium, she learns to cultivate her own sense of self as an adult who can handle herself and no longer a child who needs a mother's hand to hold. Putting Makeup On Dead People is a special book that I want to have on hand when I feel lost and need a way to find myself - or at least, a friendly book to tell me that things will be all right.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lishism More than 1 year ago
I was lucky enough to read several early versions of this book, and I just reread it now that it's out. Jen continues to amaze me with her ability to state very complicated things in simple (and beautiful) ways. She's also one of the few writers that I read who can write about something sad but when you walk away from the tale you feel uplifted and hopeful. Donna, the main character, is unique and funny. The book isn't overly dramatic and her characters all feel like flawed and real people. I still cry when I read it, but I laugh, too. This is a lovely book and now that it's on the shelves, I'm going to recommend it to everyone.
OtotheD More than 1 year ago
Donna Parisi has been going through the motions of life since her father passed away four years ago. She has friends, but the friendships seem to be lacking. She has shut herself off from her mother, and she's not very excited about going to the same college most of her friends will be attending, mainly because she has no idea what she wants to do with her life. One day all of that changes when she finds herself at the funeral of a deceased classmate. While standing in the funeral home, she feels a strange sense of comfort there. After speaking with the funeral home directors, she decides to apply to become a mortician, against her mothers wishes. This decision finally gives Donna a sense of direction, and opens her up to new friends, new experiences and her first love. I really enjoyed this book. It is told primarily from Donna's point of view. The writing is very fluid and clever. I especially enjoyed the "funeral notes" that are wedged between each chapter and are based on Donna's witty observations. The characters felt real, and there is a nice balance of drama and wit that carries the book forward. Though many might consider a book about a girl working in a funeral home a bit morbid, I never once felt depressed or that the book was morbid at all. In fact, I felt it was a nice departure from many of the cliche's found in a lot of contemporary YA novels. There are a couple of intimate moments that are described pretty vividly (though not gratuitously), so it is probably better for older teens. (Review based on an Advanced Readers Copy from NetGalley)
GHarrison More than 1 year ago
Putting Makeup on Dead People is not a complicated book, insomuch as the language isn't overwrought, the characters aren't inaccessibly heavy, and the plotting and pacing aren't stylistically challenging. However, the book delicately and playfully plunges the very complicated depths of death, family, faith, and growing up. Donna Parisi, the book's main character, is a girl many young woman can relate to, even those who haven't lost a parent or who haven't decided to rebel by attending mortuary college. On the brink of her high school graduation, Donna struggles with questions many of us faced, or will face, about the future and what kind of person we want to ultimately become - especially in the face of what our loved ones hope for us. Written with heart and great humor (there are so many hilarious moments in this book), Putting Makeup on Dead People takes the reader on a slow walk through the twilight days of high school, and into the dawn of adulthood. It's an absolute pleasure to read - for people of all ages.
lizczukas More than 1 year ago
The title of this book had me at hello. The jacket flap sealed the deal. The reading made me full of long and joy and delight. From page one, I climbed into Donna's back pocket and was totally wrapped up in her journey though this book. I haven't rooted so hard for a character in a long time. I just wanted everything to be all right for her. She makes some great decisions, some terrible ones, but they all seemed really necessary at the time. I loved the naked honesty of the narrative, and Donna's views of other people throughout. She's very observant, even though she's stand-offish. I even enjoyed the impact of Catholicism on the book, which I did not expect. Normally, I'm not taken with religious characters. But here, Donna's faith and relationship with religion were an integral part of her journey without defining her or constraining her. Violi played her hand beautifully here. The secondary characters in this book, especially Liz, were as real as Donna herself, and I really enjoyed how Violi kept them from being stereotypes. Yes, Liz was the independent, free spirit, but she was not predictable. Yes, her sister, Linnie, was the angsty goth type, but she turned out to be more open-minded at the end than almost anyone. There were so many delightful things about this book, I could wax poetic for pages. But I'd rather you just read the book and experience it for yourself. You won't regret it.
NAMT More than 1 year ago
It's been months since I read Putting Makeup on Dead People, yet Jen Violi's story remains alive in my imagination. Donna's separation from her father through death and her separation from her mother in life. Finding herself, and what she wants, in relationship with her boyfriend. Donna's angst finding a post-high school next step in line with her dreams rather than her family's desires. The new life she finds working in a mortuary. Donna's powerful relationship with her aunt, a woman the rest of the family thinks is a little crazy. It's been a long time since I was a teenager, but reading Putting Makeup on Dead People helped me to come to terms with some old unfinished edges of my life.
funfox82 More than 1 year ago
I brought this book along with me on a trip from West Coast to East Coast. It was the prefect traveling companion! The way that Donna learns to know herself through this book was so enjoyable. It was fun to read, and light hearted, but the character depth and definition enabled me to remember my own teenage self-discovery. Violi's writing is humorous, and fun, and deep, too. It will bring you into an appreciation of both Donna's journey and your own.
booklover27SB More than 1 year ago
I don't read a lot of YA novels, but this was recommended and I really loved it! It's actually a journey of self-discovery, and the emotional experiences of loss, feeling different, and trying to be authentic all resonate with me even though I'm far from my teenage years. Donna, the main character, is funny, likable, and smart. Her relationships, especially with her family, are well written and realistic. But mostly I just found the book touching and thoughtful. I definitely recommend it!