cover image Violets Are Blue

Violets Are Blue

Barbara Dee. Aladdin, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-534-46918-1

Weaving two very different but timely topics—makeup tutorial videos and opioid addiction—Dee’s (My Life in the Fish Tank) frequently poignant middle grade novel depicts the ways that both adults and children can feel out of control. Cued-white 11-year-old Renata, who goes by Wren, copes with her parents’ separation by immersing herself in online videos from Cat FX, a special effects makeup artist who specializes in sci-fi and fantasy looks. But after Wren’s dad begins a new life in Brooklyn with a new girlfriend, Wren’s mother seems increasingly peevish and exhausted—copious hints suggest that she’s not simply working too hard at her job as an ER nurse. Caught between her parents, Wren also has plenty going on at her new Chicago school as she tries to navigate crushes and a difficult friendship while doing makeup for the school production of Wicked. The cycle of substance reliance and cover-up is realistically drawn out, as is Wren’s anxiety about her circumstances: “It felt like my only options ever were: Keep everyone happy. End the fighting. Don’t make problems.” With flawed, realistic characters and dynamics, this reconciliatory novel is a believable balm for young people at the mercy of adult choices and scenarios. Ages 9–13. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Sept.)