Barbara Dee’s Violets are Blue follows Wren, a twelve-year old going through a series of massive changes. Wren’s whole world has been shaken up, first with her parent’s divorce and then with a move, a new step-parent, and new siblings. Through it all, she turns to Cat FX on YouTube, a special effects makeup artist who offers her an escape and a ticket to belonging. But as Wren’s world begins unraveling in unpredictable ways, she’s forced to reckon with what she’s been escaping from.
Dee does an incredible job with character development and showing how these middle school hierarchies impact daily life. As Wren stresses about friendship, her new family dynamic, and moving to a new town, she escapes into the world of special effects makeup. Her favorite YouTube tutorial creator teachers her how to escape, one monster, mermaid, or character at a time. Wren’s various classmates and teachers have a ripple effect on her life. The dialogue is highly realistic and impactful.
Wren’s attempts to navigate the dangerous waters of talking to her parents about each other will resonate with anyone who has experienced divorce, and provide insight for anyone who hasn’t. Her feelings of being torn, of living two separate lives and not being able to share one of them with the people she loves most in the world is relatable to readers of all ages.
This book tackles big topics, and not just the ones you can glean from the book’s blurb. An implied affair, the difficulty of managing adult expectations, and addiction are all touched upon. Each topic is handled gently, but Dee doesn’t hold back. As Wren struggles with her relationship with her mom and her mom’s erratic behavior, it’s impossible to not feel heartbroken for her. This book will definitely encourage empathy and remind readers that they don’t truly know what life is like behind closed doors.
Relationships are built on give and take, whether what’s given is information, vulnerability, or interests. Wren slowly learning to trust again and sharing bits and pieces of herself with her new friend is exquisitely written, bringing light to the give and take of friendship in a way that isn’t condescending or transactional.
Violets are Blue tackles many big topics and grand emotions, but stays grounded, realistic, and relatable. The plot line involving the opioid epidemic is especially impactful.
Violets are Blue will be available October 12, 2021 from Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing. Thank you to Barbara Dee, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, and NetGalley for an advanced copy such that I could write this review.