VIOLETS ARE BLUE, by Barbara Dee, Aladdin, Oct. 12, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 9-13)
A girl uses makeup as a refuge while navigating friendships and her parents’ divorce in Barbara Dee’s Violets Are Blue.
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? —Synopsis provided by Aladdin
At the center of Violets Are Blue is Wren, a girl whose confidence in herself is shaken by a multitude of things. Wren is trying to grow, trying to explore new interests and talents, but it feels like she has to keep things hidden. Hidden from her friends, from her parents, and sometimes hidden from herself. This push and play make for a fascinating character study and introspection on the part of the reader.
Barbara Dee (My Life in a Fish Tank) understands her audience, and speaks directly to them. By doing so, she also speaks to older readers who will also see themselves past, present or future. Her ability to draw in such a large cross-section of readers is not only impressive — it’s why I am recommending Violets Are Blue for tweens, teens and parents alike.
Violets Are Blue is an engaging read that you won’t want to put down — I read it in one day. It’s one of my favorite middle-grade reads of 2021.
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