I'm pretty sure it's even less normal for me to feel so comfortable near her coffin and corpse.
Donna Parisi's dad passed away four years ago, but the weight of his death has loomed over her ever since. She's just been going through the motions, unsure of what she really wants to do with her life until she finds herself standing in front of a dead classmate's casket and realizing that is exactly where she wants to be in life, in front of a casket and helping others cope with death.
That moment begins Donna's transformation. With a little help from a charismatic new friend, Liz, Donna begins a new life that she never thought possible. Of course not everyone is exactly happy with Donna's new found love for the dead. When Donna tells her mom that she's applying to mortuary school and is going to start working at the Brighton Brother's funeral home, it doesn't sit well. Then again, it's the first time Donna has had a passion for anything since her father passed away and for the first time she's really felt alive while hanging out with dead people.
Violi's story of teenage transformation was a breath of fresh air with a main character that wasn't a cliche YA girl. Donna Parisi and her family are like a normal Italian catholic family that I feel like I would see sitting across the aisle from me at church and loved reading about characters and a story line that felt real and not forced. She made me want to know these characters and was able to give away a moral without having to do an after school special get the message across.
Release date: May 24, 2011
Page Count: 336
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Similar to: How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles
Recommended for: Girls 12 and up
*I haven't found a YA novel that uses a young Italian girl as the main character and I was finally able to find one in this debut novel. Not only was she Italian, but she wasn't the stereotyped Italian that you'd find on TV, but a real Italian girl that you'd actually find outside of reality TV.
*The characters and the story were very real. There wasn't any part of the story that seemed far fetched or that I couldn't see happening in real life. Even in contemporary novels sometimes the themes can be over the top,but Violi managed to write a great story and keep it rooted in reality.
* When I read about the concept of this story I was intrigued and really wanted to read about the main character's experience in the funeral home. Unfortunately it seemed as though the funeral home was a side story and got lost with everything else that was going on.
*There was a lot of spirituality talk throughout the novel, everything from spirits to late night rituals in the woods. Not only were there a lot of spiritual elements, but they almost took away from the story. Instead of focusing on the character's thoughts on death it went back to discussing the spiritual elements of how they were interpreted by the people around her. I wanted more on the main character's thoughts on things instead of a lot of spiritual talk.
All in all, I did enjoy switching to a fun, contemporary story for a change even though I was expecting something a little less light hearted from a book with 'dead' in the title. If you are looking for something light hearted and contemporary then this novel may be worth picking up.
*ARC and artwork courtesy of Disney Hyperion books