CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 40. . . .June 18, 2010
When Violet’s dad leaves the family and heads to Los Angeles with his new wife and twin babies, he causes a crisis. Violet’s mom is sad at first, but then she is determined to attract a new man, even if that means inappropriate clothes and makeup. Unfortunately, every new boyfriend is a loser and certainly can’t replace Violet’s dad so Violet is determined to take action. After some discussion with her best friend, Phoebe, Violet writes a letter to George Clooney. He’s talented, good-looking and rich – who better to marry her mother and become part of the family
Nielsen has created an amusing and attractive character in Violet, whose imagination and spunk will endear her to readers. Some of her antics are hilarious – for instance, when she and Phoebe put their detective skills to use to spy on prospective boyfriends. Even when Violet misbehaves, such as enticing the little twins to eat dog turds, readers may be shocked but will still chuckle.
The other characters in the book are well-described and interesting. Violet’s mom is complex and goes through the roller coaster emotions of divorce and being a single parent with sometimes doubtful help from friends Karen and Amanda. The parade of potential mates is hilarious, and each man has real personality, even if he makes only a brief cameo appearance. Violet’s friend, Phoebe, is the trusting and helpful ‘right hand man’ while Thing One and Thing Two fill the bill as typical tween bullies at school. Nielsen has created an entire world around Violet, and readers quickly become immersed in it.
On a more serious level, Nielsen looks at just how difficult divorce is on those involved. The parents in the novel cope in completely different ways, often putting their own interests ahead of those of their children. Readers see the girls’ awkward relationship with a new stepmother. Violet and her younger sister, Rosie, seem especially true to life. Rosie acts out at school and has started to wet her bed. Violet tries to help her mom at home but feels the pressure of her dad’s being away and the seemingly never ending series of boyfriends. She, too, may lash out or may try to be in control, arranging her books alphabetically or putting the containers on a shelf in order of size. Violet has sworn off love, knowing that it is just too dangerous, and that includes Jean-Paul, the good-looking guy who has just arrived in her class! While the book in entertaining and full of humour, Nielsen still captures the chaotic feelings of her characters caught in the midst of a marital crises.
The ending may be a bit contrived, with Violet getting along with her step-mom and siblings and seeming happy that her mother and Dudley are seriously considering marriage, but that doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of the book. After careening through so many events and emotions and literally crashing near the end of the story, Violet deserves a “happy ever after” ending. You may want to shake some sense into her; you may want to hug her. You won’t be able to ignore her! Nielsen has created a story that is both funny and touching and well worth the read. Perhaps she will continue to entertain readers with more of Violet’s adventures in a future book!
Ann Ketcheson is a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French who lives in Ottawa, ON.
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