Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Review: Viola in Reel Life

Summary: I'm marooned.


Left to rot in boarding school . . .

Viola doesn't want to go to boarding school, but somehow she ends up at an all-girls school in South Bend, Indiana, far, far away from her home in Brooklyn, New York. Now Viola is stuck for a whole year in the sherbet-colored sweater capital of the world.


There's no way Viola's going to survive the year—especially since she has to replace her best friend Andrew with three new roommates who, disturbingly, actually seem to like it there. She resorts to viewing the world (and hiding) behind the lens of her video camera.

Boarding school, though, and her roommates and even the Midwest are nothing like she thought they would be, and soon Viola realizes she may be in for the most incredible year of her life.

But first she has to put the camera down and let the world in. -- Harper Teen

When I was at BEA last May, one of the highlights for me was meeting Adriana Trigiani! I have been a huge fan of hers for years, and I have read everything she's ever written (except for her cookbook, but it's only a matter of time until I get that too!) She was signing ARCs of her new YA novel VIOLA IN REEL LIFE, so I made sure that I was one of the first in line (poor Amy!) She was everything that I imagined her to be -- only more! She is so nice to her fans and spent a few minutes talking with each of us -- I LOVE HER!

VIOLA IN REEL LIFE is Ms. Trigiani's first novel for Young Adults, and I think it's a fabulous start. This book was just a joy to read, and the main characters and lessons were all so sweet too. It is exactly the type of book that I can recommend to young girls. In fact, I think my 10 year old daughter could read it right now, and I'm pretty sure that she'd absolutely love it. While the book did deal with some very real issues that young girls face today, it was all handled in the nicest (and cleanest) way possible.

As a mother, it is so refreshing to find that there are so many good Middle Grade and YA books out there that my daughter can read -- like VIOLA IN REEL LIFE. Don't get me wrong -- I have thoroughly enjoyed some of the more "adult" YA books; however, I'm a little leery of recommending them to other moms. I'm not sure when my daughter will be "ready" for these books, but I want to protect her for as long as I can. With VIOLA IN REEL LIFE, there is no need to worry! It's just a very sweet story with a very wholesome message!

I absolutely loved the character of Viola. The story is told through her voice, and I think Ms. Trigiani has absolutely captured the essence of a 14 year old girl (or at least what I imagine a 14 year old girl to be.) That should probably come as no surprise to those of you who have read books by Ms. Trigiani because I think she always does a wonderful job of developing female characters. What I really loved about Viola was her honesty and sense of humor. She was a tad bit cynical (of course, she was from Brooklyn) but she still had an amazing perspective on life considering her young age. I couldn't help but fall in love with her. She has so many of the same insecurities and feelings that I can remember having at that age!

When I started reading VIOLA IN REEL LIFE, I thought it might just be another book where the young girl is sent away to boarding school. I admit that I was a little concerned that it wouldn't be any different from so many of those types of books; however, I found myself really enjoying it and not wanting to put the book down. I absolutely loved this adorable coming-of age story as well as the overall messages in this novel.

I think since I liked Viola so much, I really appreciated how much she matured throughout the novel. When she first arrived at the boarding school, she basically was counting down the days until she could go back home. She didn't really think the school could offer her anything, and she definitely didn't want to extend herself to her classmates. She decided that she wanted to be a loner and focus on her love of taking pictures and making films. It didn't help matters that she was really homesick! Despite all Viola's misgivings, it was only a matter of time before Viola began to appreciate her new school and especially her three roommates.

By the end of Viola's freshman year in high school, she had learned so much about herself. She had found (and lost) her first real boyfriend, she grew to appreciate her friends at home in new ways while also making some wonderful new friends, and she discovered that she had a real talent for filming. In addition, she learned some important things about her parents and began to see them in a new light. I love how this story demonstrated Viola's switch from focusing on herself to focusing on others -- I found it so heartwarming!

I am very anxious to see if VIOLA IN REEL LIFE is the first book in a series. I certainly would like to see more of Viola and her family and friends! I sincerely hope that Ms. Trigiani has plans to write additional books for the YA genre because I look forward to introducing her books to my daughter sooner rather than later! Of course, who am I kidding? I consider myself one of Ms. Trigiani's biggest fans, so I pretty much look forward to any new book she writes.

On Wednesday, September 30th at 7:00 p.m. (that's tomorrow night), Book Club Girl will be hosting Ms. Trigiani on BlogTalk Radio. You can set a reminder for the show or just listen to it live. Make sure you have your questions ready. I am sure this is going to be a show that you don't want to miss; and I, for one, can hardly wait to hear Ms. Trigiani talk about VIOLA IN REEL LIFE!


Mary said...

Nice review! I read it last week and liked it. I think I read somewhere that this is the first in a series - YAY!

lilly said...

I haven't read anything by Trigiani yet but I certainly will reach out for this book now that I read your review. My daughter is just on the verge of entering young adulthood and I start to look for appropriate books to recommend to her. Like you, even thought I do enjoy some of the YA books on the market nowadays, I don't think they are all that appropriate for my daughter.

bermudaonion said...

I'm reading this right now and I'm loving it so far - Viola is a fantastic character!

Beth F said...

I haven't read Trigiani either, but I'm definitely keeping her in mind for my middle reader friends and nieces.

Ti said...

I am reading it now. I'll 'see' you at the blog talk show.

Stephanie said...

I remember taking a picture of you while you were on line - now I wish I got a copy of this book! :)

Nise' said...

Very nice review. I am new to Trigiani's books and this one will be going on my TBR list.

Shanyn said...

I've had this one on my list to read for awhile, I just hope I can end up finding a copy somewhere!

S. Krishna said...

So glad you liked this one - great review!

Kim said...

A. Trigiani is a favorite author of mine from the time I read her Big Stone Gap series. I haven't read this one yet, but look forward to it.

Thanks for this review.

Cindy said...

thanks for the mom- friendly comments and review! I can't read everything my daughter brings home from the library!