Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Welcome to Bookanista Thursday! We recommend books. They go on your already burgeoning to-read lists. You thank us. Your spouses don't.

Hey, am I right or am I right?

Today, I'm featuring a book that you'll want to get once it arrives on stores on or around May 24th: PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE by Jen Violi. Here's the Goodreadish blurb:

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 loving, applying lipstick to corpses, and finding life in the wake of death.

The minute I saw the title, I knew I had to read this book. I managed a pathology department lab for over five years. I've observed autopsies and worked hand-in-hand with funeral directors, some of whom were smart and kind and funny and others that made crazy demands involving helicopters and taking showers in industrial bleach.

One of the funniest things about working in that environment is that it's one of the most morbid but life-affirming places to be. Every time you turn around, people are making VERY non-PC jokes about cadavers, because that's what you've got to do to stay sane when you're working around death all the time. And in the process, that whole death thing ceases to be so scary and becomes something that can be okay if you want it to.

So with that kind of experience, you can imagine how I approached this book. Would it capture that strange combo of completely inappropriate joking mixed with profound moments that stick with you for years afterward?

It did.

Unlike most death books, this isn't so much of a tear jerker, and I liked that. It mixes the obligatory heavy moments with situations that made me snarf things out my nose even though I knew I shouldn't be. It doesn't make light of death exactly. But in dealing with all the minutiae (what kind of casket? what color foundation?), death becomes something that's possible to come to terms with. It's a completely different approach for a YA book about death--and I LOVE that. Sometimes the death books blend together in my mind. But this one will always stand out in my mind as a quirky read of funereal awesomeness.

It's supposed to be on shelves at the end of May. If you read, I'd love to hear what you think!

While you're at it; check out what the other Bookanistas are up to. Both MOONGLASS and DIVERGENT are on the shelves this week, so huge congrats to Jessi and Veronica!

Shelli Johannes-Wells gives us THE ROYAL TREATMENT

Elana Johnson hosts a blog tour stop for 101 SUCCESS SECRETS FOR GIFTED KIDS with a giveaway

Shannon Messenger adores THE DAY BEFORE plus a giveaway

Carolina Valdez Miller is passionate about POSSESSION and gives away an ARC

Beth Revis shares some SOLSTICE cover love

Lisa and Laura Roecker and Stasia Ward Kehoe marvel over MOONGLASS

Megan Miranda and Veronica Rossi delve into DIVERGENT

Shana Silver shows her desire for DEMONGLASS

Sarah Frances Hardy wants to be just LIKE MANDARIN

Christine Fonseca is in love with DARK AND HOLLOW PLACES with a giveaway


Christine Fonseca said...

This sounds great. And man, that title...perfect!

Katie Anderson said...

I hadn't heard of this one but I am now DYING to read it. I saw a movie recently with this premise and it was really good. I think it was japanese - about a man who does this exact thing: discovers he is truly destined to prepare the bodies at funerals (they do things differently). Check it out. I think it was called DEPARTURES.

Carrie Harris said...

Oooh, thanks for the movie rec, Katie!

Jessi said...

I haven't heard of this either, but I can't wait! Sounds fantastic!

Tere Kirkland said...

Hadn't heard much about this one, but really love the concept. Thanks for your review, Carrie!

Anonymous said...

OK, I was on the fence about this one because of the title. I'm a big wuss! LOL But after this post, I so want to read it! ♥

Stephsco said...

I haven't heard of this book until now, thank you for blogging about it! I'm very excited to see a book like this in YA.

Stasia said...

Ironically, I am currently reading a book called "Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy" - entirely different!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an interesting book with an interesting name and an interesting plot. Thanks for sharing!