Friday, September 17, 2021

Review: Violets are Blue by Barbara Dee

Yay, it's Friday! This week just flew right on by, and I'm not sure where it went. But there was no way I'd skip out on reading today's book. This one caught my interest due to an original twist—makeup artistry. The main character loves make-up, not the usual 'girly' kind, but rather, she loves to learn all the techniques to allow a person to let their personalities shine as they become mermaids, zombies or anything else. Pack in several difficult themes, and this one was on my 'have to read list'.

Let's see if it was as good as I hoped, shall we?

by Barbara Dee
Middle Grade Contemporary
304 pages
ages 8 to 12

OCTOBER 12th!!!

From the author of the acclaimed My Life in the Fish Tank and Maybe He Just Likes You comes a moving and relatable middle grade novel about secrets, family, and the power of forgiveness.

Twelve-year-old Wren loves makeup—special effect makeup, to be exact. When she is experimenting with new looks, Wren can create a different version of herself. A girl who isn’t in a sort-of-best friendship with someone who seems like she hates her. A girl whose parents aren’t divorced and doesn’t have to learn to like her new stepmom.

So, when Wren and her mom move to a new town for a fresh start, she is cautiously optimistic. And things seem to fall into place when Wren meets potential friends and gets selected as the makeup artist for her school’s upcoming production of Wicked.

Only, Wren’s mom isn’t doing so well. She’s taking a lot of naps, starts snapping at Wren for no reason, and always seems to be sick. And what’s worse, Wren keeps getting hints that things aren’t going well at her new job at the hospital, where her mom is a nurse. And after an opening night disaster leads to a heartbreaking discovery, Wren realizes that her mother has a serious problem—a problem that can’t be wiped away or covered up.

After all the progress she’s made, can Wren start over again with her devastating new normal? And will she ever be able to heal the broken trust with her mom?



Difficult issues mix with make-up for a touching story about family, friends, and finding ones self.

Wren loves make-up and devours any video about the artistry where she can. Although she doesn't admit it, she's quite talented, too. But all of that takes a backseat as her parents divorce, her mother battles with tough working hours, and a move, which is supposed to make everything better. When Wren gets a chance to let her make-up talents shine, she's not so sure she wants to do it or not, especially when the tough secrets her mother has been hiding start coming to light.

The idea of weaving a girl's interest into make-up artistry into a tale already gives this one a unique and fun twist. The author starts each chapter with tips from Wren's videos and, mixed in these, are wise words, which glide right along with the plot and deeper problems. This aspect was refreshing and well done, already adding a lot to the read. But then, the entire thing is well written.

Many difficult themes are packed into these pages as Wren first experiences the divorce of her parents, meeting a new step-mother, having new step-siblings, losing best friends, moving to a new place, first crushes, and, finally, parents and drug abuse. And there are even more snuck in. Still, the author does a great job at sliding this into a seamless story, which flows as smooth as make-up. It's kept age appropriate and demonstrates how some problems aren't immediately visible.

While this is a deeper read on some ends, it's actually an easy read. The dialogue and characters stay natural, and the plot keeps a steady pace, letting one scene sit, and then going right into the next. It's never boring nor does it waste time on descriptions or an overflow of feelings and thoughts. And this is where I missed a little more on the character depth and felt like everything sometimes superficially flowed by without any real emotional connections. But this did improve as the story went along.

This is definitely an enjoyable read and hits themes middle graders will recognize and sympathize with. It definitely gets a 'thumbs-up' from me.

And here she is...

Barbara Dee is the author of twelve middle grade novels published by Simon & Schuster, including Violets Are BlueMy Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including the The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York

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