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.

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