Viola: In Reel Life
by Adriana Trigiani

HarperTeen, 2009. ISBN 978-0-061-45102-7.
Reviewed by Susan M. Andrus
Posted on 10/30/2009

Teen/Girls; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Relationships

Do you believe in ghosts? I don't, but I still loved reading this book about Viola Chesterton from Brooklyn, New York stranded in a boarding school in Indiana for her ninth grade year. Viola, an only child, fails to get her requested single room and finds herself rooming with three other girls from whom she only wants to escape. When they leave her alone, she panics and realizes that she needs them more than they need her.

While Viola is missing her parents who will spend the year in Afghanistan filming a documentary, she chronicles her misery in Indiana with her own camera. When she edits her first shots of the campus, she sees a woman in red that wasn't there when she filmed the segment.

As Viola strives to untangle the mystery of the apparent ghost, she learns lessons in sharing, acceptance, love, and rejection. Adriana Trigiani, a filmmaker herself, uses images from Viola's perspective to show the reader the setting and the struggles Viola encounters. When it snows, unlike Brooklyn where the snow is gray and slushy, "high winds clear paths leaving sheets of ice underneath as though somebody shoveled it, but they haven't; it's just the way it settles in South Bend. Snow, like everything else in Indiana, is a new and different experience for me."

Each of Viola's new and different experiences propels the reader to make these discoveries right along with her. And the ghost? Spurred by her new boyfriend's encouragement to enter a film competition, Viola researches the subject and creates a short biography of the mysterious woman using her roommates and family as performers in her submission. The outcome is satisfying and only by reading the book will you see how impressive Trigiani's storytelling abilities can be.

Adriana Trigiani is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. She is the author of the bestselling Big Stone Gap series, the bestselling novels, Lucia, Lucia; The Queen of the Big Time; Rococo; and Very Valentine. This is her first novel for teens. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter. Visit her website.

Authors/Publicists: For promotion purposes, you may quote excerpts of up to 200 words from our reviews, with a link to the page on which the review is posted. ©Copyright to the review is held by the writer (review posting date appears on the review page). If you wish to reprint the full review, you may do so ONLY with her written permission, and with a link to Contact our Book Review Editor (bookreviews at with your request and she will forward it to the appropriate person. has received a copy of this book for review from the author, publisher, or publicist. We have received no other compensation.


Visit us on Facebook and Twitter and goodreads.

Buy books online through by simply clicking on the book cover or title. Your purchase will support our work of encouraging all women to tell their stories.
This title is currently available ONLY as an e-book