Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani

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Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Trigiani's first teen novel is a heart-warming coming-of-age story with a heroine who will appeal to girls in the early teens. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1847389268

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It definitely wasn't Viola's choice to go to boarding school and she really would have preferred not to have to share a room with three other girls she'd never met before, but her parents – both film makers - were going to be abroad for a year and single rooms were in short supply. And that was how, at the beginning of the school year, Viola came to be at the Prefect Academy in South Bend, Indiana rather than in her native New York. She'd left behind her best friend, Andrew (no – he's not her boyfriend, he's a best friend who happens to be a boy) and is sharing a room with Marisol Carreras, Romy Dixon and Suzanne Santry.

Fashion is different in South Bend. Viola's yellow patent flats are something of a no-no, but sherbet-coloured sweaters seem to be the in thing. Contact with friends and family isn't entirely lost as there's always IM, emails and the web-cam, but gradually Viola comes to realise that far from being a year to dread this could turn out to be something quite special. What Viola really wants to do is make film and she sees life through her camera which seems to hang permanently from her shoulders – but it's not long before she realises that there's a lot more to life.

This book might be pitched at the early teens but it covers some timeless themes. There's the value of friendship, of people being there for each other without any ulterior motives. There's friendship with girls and with boys without romance necessarily being involved. There are relationships which develop steadily without the white heat of lust. There's first love, with an understanding of what this means from both sides. It's when you count the number of times you've been kissed and you daren't even think about what might happen in the future.

There's the hurt when the loved one turns out to have feet of clay but it's balanced by the strength of finding out who you are and being true to yourself. It's about that moment when a girl turns into a young woman and you see the person she'll become.

It's a good story with a great deal of subtlety. It's not the usual boarding school story where most of the girls seem to have some sort of an axe to grind or dreadful secret to hide. There are the usual preoccupations of fashion and boyfriends, but not to the exclusion of all else. The four girls who share a room are completely different personalities and you'll warm to all of them, but particularly to Viola, who's someone that girls will relate to. She's not strikingly beautiful and whilst she's good at some things (particularly when a camera is involved) she's not so great at others. You'd be pleased if she was your daughter's friend.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

If this type of book appeals then have a look at Tapas and Tears by Chris Higgins.

Buy Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani at

Buy Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani at


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