Summary: Violet and the Pie of Life
In Violet and the Pie of Life, 12-year-old Violet wishes that math could solve all her problems — and she does try to use her math. Unfortunately, her parents are fighting more and more. Her mom seems to nag constantly while her dad is the fun one who does things like buying them fried chicken for dinner. Eventually, after a heated argument one night, her father moves out and her mom won’t tell Violet where he’s gone.
At school, her best friend Mackenzie seems to make fun of just about anyone, but especially the nice, pretty girl in their class, Ally. So when Violet gets cast as the Lion in the Wizard of Oz play and Mackenzie gets a small role, while Ally plays Dorothy, Mackenzie asks Violet to quit the play with her. Violet refuses. That and a budding friendship with Ally put a strain on her friendship with Mackenzie, adding to Violet’s overall stress.
The voice in this middle grade novel is so on point, and that’s something not many writers get exactly right. Violet is believable, her responses to her father’s absence, and the way she slowly gets a clearer view of her parents’ marriage is realistic. I haven’t enjoyed a character like I liked Violet in a while, simply for how real she felt throughout the story.
Violet’s friendship with Mackenzie is complicated. Mackenzie as a character is also incredibly nuanced. We see her being gossipy and sometimes mean to other characters, but we also learn why she is the way she is. I like that the author doesn’t excuse bad behavior, and yet does not demonize any characters. Everyone in this story has such an engaging backstory and yet, it all feels so effortless. Throughout the book, we learn more and more about our characters — this book is multilayered perfection.
Math and pie play significant roles in the story. Violet starts out hiding her math skills in class, but eventually becomes an advanced math student getting supplemental homework from her teacher. Throughout the book, the author intersperses flow charts, pie charts, Venn diagrams, and even equations uniquely used to depict Violet’s dilemmas. I don’t even like math, and I enjoyed all of the extra math stuff. Finally, the author handles the delicate situation of a child caught in the middle of a dissolving marriage with sensitivity and honesty.
Overall: Violet and the Pie of Life
Violet and the Pie of Life is a realistic portrayal of the impact of parental separation on a child. This book also centers musical theater, a math-loving protagonist, and evolving friendships. I would highly recommend this book to fans of voice-driven stories that handle tough topics like parental neglect, parental drug use (briefly mentioned with regard to a side character) while providing levity in form of humor and a school play.
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I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Have you read this book or any book by Debra Green? This was my first one! I really liked it. Which other STEM-related books have you enjoyed? If you sign up for my newsletter, I’ll send you my printable list of STEM-related middle grade books.