Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Viola in Not So Reel Life
Ninth grade is tough enough without being shipped off to a boarding school in Indiana when all you have ever known is life is your parents and Brooklyn. But Viola can adapt, even from behind a video camera in Adriana Trigiani's Viola in Real Life.
Viola has no interest in going to an all girls' school and even less interest in being shipped off to Indiana. But she can still talk to her BFF Andrew via instant message when she needs to and her video diary is her one stable outlet. When she meets her roommates, she realizes just how out of her element she is. The girls are nice, but she is not ready to really let them in.
Slowly but surely, the girls worming their way into Viola's life. It takes a few false starts, but eventually, they are able to make her realize they are there for her. Once she lets them in, she sees just how much she missed having a friend to share everything with, especially now that Andrew has a girlfriend and isn't available like he used to be. But a dance at the local boys' school finds Viola with a boyfriend, and amazingly enough, a boyfriend who is into films as well! But Reel Life isn't always what you expect it to be.
When I first started this book, I didn't realize it was about a 9th grade girl. I thought it was more young adult than the middle reader it turned out to be, so I think my misconception made it difficult for me to enjoy this book fully. I like a good middle reader, but sometimes this book felt too juvenile and too cliche for me. For instance, Viola's roommates are too mature, clear-headed, and rational for 9th grade girls. I can buy one, maybe two girls, but all of them? I have spent time in the girls' dorm at our school. I have never seen that many rational girls that age in one place! Girls that age get their feelings hurt and snipe at one another and hold grudges. They don't rationalize and openly discuss each other's shortcoming without some relational aggression thrown in for good measure. I guess sometimes I felt like these characters were more caricatures than representations of real people.
And Viola herself was hard to really like. I saw her transformation and how she grew up over the course of the year, but some of her "big lessons" were too rushed or improperly explained. Mostly she seemed very young and very naive about life (like how her parents' financial situation really was). I think this book would be good for a young girl, mostly middle school to a super immature 9th grader. I think most older girls are going to see through these characters too easily to care much about the book. Although, the film aspect is certainly interesting, it doesn't float the whole novel.