Summary: Violets Are Blue
Violets Are Blue was my first read by Barbara Dee and I had a strong feeling I would love it. 12-year-old Wren lives with her mom after her parents’ divorce. Her dad has moved to New York City and married his lover (with whom he was unfaithful to her mother) who is now expecting twins. Wren is also a special effects makeup aficionado. Caught up in a new school, navigating new friendships, and balancing her relationships with her parents — whose relationship with each other is strained — Wren notices her mom has begun behaving strangely.
This is a brilliantly written story with a perfectly pitched middle grade voice. Wren comes alive on the page and her dilemmas and worries are so typical of many middle schoolers. The themes explored are serious, but never feel too heavy for a middle grade audience. It’s not a spoiler to say that Wren’s mother develops an opioid misuse disorder and it slowly starts to show in her day to day dealings. To Wren, her mother is just changing, but she can’t figure out what’s wrong.
Wren’s parents divorce is also a significant plot point as it impacts her life after. She gets a new stepmom whom she actually doesn’t hate — and new siblings too. But she also feels the need to reassure her mother of her continued affection. I liked that while Wren’s mother obviously struggles with everything, she isn’t a one-dimensional “bad parent.” She’s still good at her job and looks out for her daughter as much as she can, all things considered.
Special effects makeup is Wren’s new passion and it helps her make new friends at the new school she attends. She even gets to be the makeup artist for a stage play at school. I don’t know much about special effects makeup, but the way the author writes about it, this book is obviously well-researched. I also liked seeing the interesting friend dynamics and the way Wren asserts herself in social situations.
Overall: Violets Are Blue
Violets Are Blue is an engaging middle grade book with a relatable, creative protagonist dealing parental substance abuse. It also spotlights the reality of coping with parental divorce after infidelity and thereafter adjusting to a new blended family. Fans of stories with kids who love arts and crafts as well as musical theater will also enjoy this book. Really, everyone and anyone will.