Between the Bookcovers

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Author: Jen Violi
Published: May 24, 2011
Pages: 336
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Description from Goodreads:

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.


Donna is on the cusp of adulthood but is still trying to get over the loss of her father. After the death of a classmate she realizes that she is drawn to the funeral home and is interested in learning more about becoming a mortician. As she explores her options for the future she realizes she must confront her grief from the past in order to move on.

Adolescence is such a difficult time of change when teens must choose their careers and face life after high school. Jen Violi has captured the difficulty of this time so well in this book, it is a wonderful primer on how to deal with making choices even when they go against everything your parent wants.

Donna is a complex and well developed character. She faces a difficult choice of pleasing a parent or choosing a career that makes her happy. The courage she displays in making a choice that endangers the relationship with her remaining parent was remarkable. The way she grew while dealing with her unresolved grief made me want to reach in and hug her. The secondary characters are also well developed and interesting, making this a very well rounded book.

The main topic was strange for a YA book - handling the dead. The author has opened a window into a world not often explored. And it is a fascinating world where the art involved in caring for the dead is explored. It makes it clear that death is something we all must deal with and makes one thankful for those who care for our loved ones after death.

Grief is also with here but not the main theme of the book. This is a wonderful book about making difficult choices and the rewards that are there when one seeks them.

Rating: A wonderful story about difficult choices

Note: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review but did not get any compensation for the review.

About This Blog

I review mostly Young Adult literature, any genre. I also review other fiction, especially horror, science fiction and historical novels. I also have occasional giveaways.