The cover and the great title caught my eye when this came into the library. I am fascinated by funeral homes and the work they do. I was a big fan of Six Feet Under. After attending four funerals this year for loved ones, I pulled Putting Makeup On Dead People by Jen Violi from my shelf of good intentions and finally read it. I am so glad I did. This is a great story about a teen trying to figure out who they are. Donna lost her father four years ago. She is mostly invisible at school. She hangs out with girls but wouldn’t call any of them dear friends. That is until Liz shows up in the middle of senior year. Liz is fearless and would rather be friends with Donna than the “in crowd.” A great friendship grows. The book begins with a funeral of a classmate. Donna didn’t know her well but when to her viewing since everyone else was. This brought back memories of he father’s funeral. The family who runs the business remembers her and a conversation starts. Donna is fascinated with funerals, embalming and especially reconstruction and make up. Donna graduates and to her mother’s dismay, decides to go to mortuary school and work for Brighten Brothers funeral home. She even moves into the funeral home to be closer to work. Readers will learn about how people are prepared for burial. Each chapter ends with a deceased person who is part of the narrative. Donna discovered much about herself during this time. She becomes involved with a boy for the first time. One of my favorite parts of the book takes place when she decides this boy isn’t right for her and then is assertive enough to pursue the one who is. There is also a great story line about an aunt that the family shuns because of her unorthodox religious ways. The family is strict Catholic. I very much enjoyed this book, especially the references to Dayton and Yellow Springs. I’ve never been to Yellow Springs and now need to make the trip.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Do you know what you want to do as a career? What inspired you to choose that?
Talk about how Donna felt invisible in high school. What do you think made her change how she felt about herself? Have you ever felt that way?
Discuss this passage, “Sitting in class, I realize something feels familiar. I don’t really know any of my classmates. I haven’t spoken up much in class. Other than being fascinated by all of the subject matter, this feels like Woodmont, where all I wanted was to disappear. But I don’t want to be back at Woodmont, and I find I don’t want to be invisible here. Which means making myself noticed, something that I’m not used to doing.” (pg. 271)
Talk about Donna’s friendship with Liz. If you could create a friend what would you want them to be like?
Discuss what Donna finds appealing about Tim. What does she like about Charlie?
Discuss the part when Donna realizes she doesn’t like Tim.
Talk about Donna’s aunt. Do you have a relative no one likes to talk about?
Discuss how Donna reacts when her mother starts dating.
Discuss this passage,”I think of Patty strutting around Woodmont like she owned the place, a feeling I never had there. But a this moment, I know I’m in my element. I know Patty and I aren’t so separate. And I understand, I think for the first time, what it means to love the whole person.” (pg. 295)
Talk about what it means to have a back up band, people who loved you and are gone and are watching over you. Who would they be?
Talk about what it means to do a ritual.