Viola in Reel Life

Viola in Reel Life

by Adriana Trigiani


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When fourteen-year-old Viola is sent from her beloved Brooklyn to boarding school in Indiana for ninth grade, she overcomes her initial reservations as she makes friends with her roommates, goes on a real date, and uses the unsettling ghost she keeps seeing as the subject of a short film—her first.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061451041
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/01/2011
Series: Viola Series , #1
Pages: 282
Sales rank: 238,925
Product dimensions: 7.80(w) x 5.30(h) x 0.76(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Beloved by millions of readers around the world for her "dazzling" novels, (USA Today) Adriana Trigiani is “a master of palpable and visual detail” (Washington Post) and “a comedy writer with a heart of gold” (New York Times). She is the New York Times bestselling author of eighteen books in fiction and nonfiction, published in 38 languages, making her one of the most sought after speakers in the world of books today.

Adriana is also an award-winning film director and screenwriter, playwright, and television writer and producer. Her screen adaptation of her bestselling novel Very Valentine premiered on Lifetime television in June 2019, launching their National Book Club. In 2018, she directed the feature film Then Came You, filmed on location in the Highlands of Scotland. She wrote and directed the award-winning major motion picture Big Stone Gap, based on her debut novel, filmed entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. Big Stone Gap spent 11 weeks in theatres in the fall of 2015 and was the #2 top-grossing romantic comedy of the year. She wrote and directed the documentary film, Queens of the Big Time, winner of the Audience Award at the Hamptons and Palm Springs International Film Festivals. Adriana co-founded The Origin Project, an in-school writing program which serves over 1,700 students in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. She lives in New York City with her family.

Join Adriana on Facebook and Instagram @AdrianaTrigiani or visit her website:

Read an Excerpt

Viola in Reel LifeChapter One

You would not want to be me.


I'm marooned. Abandoned. Left to rot in boarding school in the dust bowl of Indiana like the potato we found in the cupboard in our kitchen in Brooklyn after months of searching for it. It was only when the entire kitchen began to smell like a root cellar from Pilgrim days that we figured out why...and when we finally found the potato it was soft, rotten, and breeding itself with white barnacles with totally disgusting green tips.

Consider me missing. Like the potato.

I only hope it doesn't take an entire year for people to miss me as much as I can already tell that I'm going to miss them. And if I'm not good at explaining it in words, well, there's always my movie camera. I do better with film anyhow. Images. Moving pictures.

I flip the latch off the lens and look into the view finder, and press Record.

"I'm in South Bend, Indiana, on September third, 2009."

With my hand securing the camera and my eye behind the lens, I turn.

Through my lens, I slowly drink in three old brick buildings: Curley Kerner Hall is the dormitory where I'll be living, Phyllis Hobson Jones Hall (called Hojo for short, according to my resident advisor) is the theater with art studios on the basement floor, and Geier-Kirshenbaum is the classroom building. The Chandler Gym, a modern building that looks like a Moonwalk carnival ride covered with a hard shell of white plastic, is obscured by tall trees on a flat field.

What did I expect? Purple mountain majesties? I'm in the pre-Great Plains of the Midwest. The gateway to the west. This is Indiana...translated it's a NativeAmerican word for flat. Okay, I made that up.

I film the freshly painted black sign with gold lettering set in a stone wall.


It gives me little consolation to know that parents have been dumping their girls here for a solid education since bustle skirts, high-top shoes, and the invention of the cotton gin.

"This is my new school," I say aloud. "Or my own personal prison . . . your choice."

The stately brick buildings are connected by corridors of glass. From here, the glass hallways look like terrariums. That's right. The boarding school has glass atriums that look exactly like the scenes I made in summer camp out of old jelly jars filled with sand, cocktail umbrellas, and plastic bugs.

I pivot slowly to film the fields around the school. The land is the color of baked pizza crust without the tomato sauce. There are no lush rolling hills similar to the ones that appear on the school website. The babbling brook on the home page gushes crystal water, but when I went to film it, it was a bone-dry creek bed, with gross stones and tangled vines. Besides being marooned, I've been had...duped by my own parents, who, up until now, have made fairly intelligent decisions when it comes to me.

I lift the camera and film a slow pan. The endless blue sky has gnarls of white clouds on the horizon. It looks a lot like the braided rag rug my mother keeps in front of the washing machine in the basement of our Brooklyn brownstone. Everything I see makes me long for home. I wonder what color the sky is now in New York. It's never this shade of blue. This is cheap eye shadow blue, whereas New York skies have a lot of indigo in them. When the moon rises over Indiana, I bet it will be a cheesy silver color, but at home, it's golden: 24K and so big, it throws ribbons of glitter over Cobble Hill. I can already tell there will be no glitter in Indiana.

The first thing my parents taught me when I held a camera was to spend the least amount of film time on beauty shots and the most amount of time on people. "If you film people," my mom says, "you'll find your story." I slip the camera back into its case and head back to the dormitory. I'm going to remember to tell my mom that sometimes you need beauty...and beauty shots. Beauty makes me feel less alone.

The gothic entrance hall smells like lemon furniture polish and beeswax. The dorm has the feeling of an old church even though it's not one. Heavy dark wood stairs and banister lead to a ceiling covered in wide squares of carved mahogany. A burgundy carpet runner over the wide staircase is frayed at the edges but clean.

The hallway that leads to my room on the second floor is filled with small groups of girls, my fellow (!) incoming freshmen, who laugh and chat as though moving into a boarding school is the most natural thing in the world. I'll try not to resent the smiling, happy girls.

Inside the rooms are more girls, hanging posters and unpacking, talking as if they've known each other forever. But then there are the other girls, girls who are quiet and clump together, looking around with big eyes full of dread and fear, waiting for something horrible to happen.

I guess I'm somewhere in the middle of these two camps.

I don't want to be too quick to make friends because I don't want to get stuck with an instant BFF who seems totally nice on the first day, and then a week later is revealed to be the most annoying person on the planet. I don't want to be that freshman...the chirpy kind, who needs friends fast in order not to feel alone. So I am deliberately aloof. At LaGuardia Arts, in Brooklyn, my old school, this method worked very well for me.

I did make close friends when I was a photographer for the yearbook. I even made my best friend since childhood join the yearbook staff. Andrew Bozelli (BFFAA...the double A is for: And Always) and I have a lot in common. Never mind that everybody, I mean everybody, thinks we're boyfriend and girlfriend...we are not by the way, we just happen to spend a lot of time together. I fish my phone out of my pocket as it beeps. It's Andrew...

Viola in Reel Life. Copyright © by Adriana Trigiani. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Viola in Reel Life 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 90 reviews.
E-C-D More than 1 year ago
This was a very cute coming of age book about a 14 year old girl named Viola, who gets sent to a all girls school in Indiana while her parents film a documentary in Afghanistan. I really enjoyed the film aspects because that is something that I don't know a lot about. I related a lot to Viola, she is very stubborn and she seems to never understand that she is acting a certain way until someone points it out to her. I went into this book wanting to read a teenage romance, but as this story progressed I loved that it was more about Viola discovering herself and a friendship between four young girls. I would love to read more about Viola and her friends, I think that there is a lot of potential in the characters of this book. Especially, the relationship between Andrew and Viola. I would also like to see more of what Viola films, mainly her video diaries. All in all, this was a very well written book. It's the 1st book I've read by Adriana Trigiani and I will definetly be looking into her adult books now.
DanceBree17 More than 1 year ago
Viola In Reel Life is a sweet read that takes you thru the roller coaster ride that is Viola Chesterfield. She starts out feeling "dumped" by her documentary making parents who have to go to Afganistan to do filming. The book shows just how withdrawn Viola is when she first arrives and how it plainly hurts her roommates. Its nice to see a book written about a real girl going to boarding school, not some uber-rich girl having to deal with where her Manolo's will fit in the cramped closet. She hides from everyone behind her video camera, but that becomes part of her sudden popularity when she helps the Founders Day show the school puts on and makes her a star. That same camera also helps her meet a cute boy from the boys private school down the road. Its nice to see Viola change from being so withdrawn and sad to a bubbly and happy girl at the end. I liked how they talked alot about the short film Viola works on for a contest. Overall, its a good realistic book and girls will love it!
LouiseJolly More than 1 year ago
On September 3, 2009, fourteen-year-old Viola Chesterton finds herself unhappy after being dropped off in South Bend, Indiana which Viola refers to as the: "...dust bowl of Indiana", at "The Prefect Academy For Young Women Since 1890." Viola's parents are off in Afghanistan for a year making a documentary about Afghan women forcing them to pull her from her home in Brooklyn, New York. This was not going to be an easy or comfortable change for Viola. Convinced she was going to be unhappy, and feeling "marooned" and "abandoned", Viola figures her family will miss her long before her year at the all-girls boarding school is up, and will rush to bring her home. If she can't convince them through her words, then as an amateur photography and movie maker who never leaves her camera behind, she decides she'll express her unhappiness through film. It gives her little consolation when she realizes that: "...parents have been dumping their girls here for a solid education since bustle skirts, high-top shoes, and the invention of the cotton gin" and Viola sees the Academy as her "personal prison." Used to being an only child and not having to share, Viola decides to take a middle stance and not be "...too quick to make friends" as she doesn't want to be stuck with a 'best friend forever' or viewed as the "...most annoying person on the planet" and is soon introduced to her three roommates. But, as the girls get to know each other and become acquainted, what Viola begins to learn is that sometimes what we term as "family" isn't what we think. During her journey through boarding school, Viola not only makes some friends, discovers some things about herself and her family, survives her first boyfriend, but learns that good things do happen to people like her and growing up is sometimes hard to do. Ms. Trigiani's talent is amazing!! It doesn't matter if she's writing adult fiction or young adult fiction, all her novels are page-turners! I felt like I was with the group every step of the way, like I had been transported into the pages of the novel!! This novel is for anyone, young or old, male or female and will leave you wanting more.
cider12 More than 1 year ago
I am far from a teen - but I am a huge fan of Adriana Trigiani and read whatever she has to say. I found the story captivating and thought that the message was a good one. This young girl was put into a situation that she very much did not want to be in - she not only dealt with it, but she learned that, when given a chance, good things can come out of a negative experience. All in all, a very good life lesson.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Viola Chesterson has been "dumped" at the Prefect Academy for Young Women in South Bend, Indiana - a long way from home in Brooklyn, New York. Her freshman year of high school seems like it's going to be a terrible one. But luckily, with the help of her three roommates and the video camera that she always carries around with her, she not only survives the year (and her first boyfriend), but learns that sometimes family can be more than just the people you're related to. I enjoyed reading this book. It was fun to read about what boarding school life would be like for a normal kid, not just a rich one. I liked all of the roommates - when I first started the book, I expected them to not get along and to dislike them. But the author took a different route and made all of the girls nice and friendly. I also enjoyed the whole film aspect of the story. I thought the short film Viola makes at the end was a great idea. The only thing I didn't like was that sometimes Viola seemed a little immature. I know that she was only fourteen years old, but some of the things she thought and said just seemed a little young for her age. Overall, though, this was a fun young adult read!
joiseygoil More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sharonluvscats on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Viola in Reel Life worked for me despite the fact, that it sounded to me like the type of book I usually do not like. The thing about Viola in Reel Life is the pace is extremely slow for most of the novel, but in the words of a dear friend, ¿slow is not always a bad thing. ¿ In the case of Viola in Reel Life the slow pace was easy for me to deal with because of Adriana¿s ability to bring all of her characters to life.Adriana Trigiana truly does bring all of her characters to life. Viola¿s strong voice and interest in film make her seem like a real person. My favorite parts of the book were when Viola was behind her camera filming. It was interesting see to how cinematography affected Viola¿s world view. To Viola the whole world really in a stage. However, there were a few times when Viola got of my nerves for example; Viola spends a lot of time judging people based on what they wear. There were a few times when I was even tempted to smack her around a little bit. As the book progresses Viola begins to mature as a character and learn how to be a better person, so I decided to forgive her.The thing that held me back from totally falling in love with Viola in Reel life was ultimately the slow pace. The pacing works for much of the novel due to Viola¿s charm, but by the last fifty pages the story really started to drag. The ending was also a bit of a disappointment. We never find out what happens between Viola and her male friend back home. This was something that was mentioned throughout the
bookwormygirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Viola Chesterson has been ¿abandoned¿ at the Prefect Academy for Young Women in South Bend, Indiana - an all-girls boarding school and horribly far away from her home in Brooklyn, New York - by her parents who are abroad working on a documentary.She is devastated, sad, lonely - she misses her home, her parents and her BFF's - but most importantly, she can't fathom living with three complete strangers in a new school far away from everyone and everything she's ever known. Luckily for her, she is paired with a great set of roommates, her knack for film-making and a fanciful grandmother, aptly called Grand - she just might be able to survive the year... actually it might just be the best year of her life.I truly enjoyed this coming-of-age story. It's about leaving your comfort zone, making new friends, and realizing that not everything in this world revolves around you (no matter how hard that seems when you are 14). Viola, who can be spoiled (at times), was spunky, witty and had a great sense of humor. I also enjoyed the aspects of boarding school life - maybe it's because I never went to an all-girls school or studied away from home - but I always enjoy novels where the setting is at a school. The girls and their friendship was also something to savor - they were all very different and I really enjoyed how they came together, supported and helped one another. This is Viola's story - how she navigates in a new school, new experiences, new friendships, a new boyfriend, and how she follows her dream of making a movie. Although this is Ms. Trigiani's first venture into YA - she mastered it without a hitch. This is a fantastic story for tweens and young adults but can definitely be appreciated by adults just the same. I personally loved it.
ericajsc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿m an easy sell when it comes to stories set in a boarding school, and I love filmmaking, so this book was right up my alley. This had ample amounts of both.It took me a while before I felt comfortable with Viola. As the book begins she is very hostile to the idea of boarding school, but there¿s really no choice as her parents are leaving the country for work. Instead of viewing this as an opportunity to try something new, Viola dwells on what she left behind in Brooklyn. This is understandable, as she¿s fourteen and I probably would¿ve been the same way. Although it takes her some time to settle in and open herself to the people around her, she finally does. Once she finds her place at the school, something she can be passionate about, Viola becomes someone I cared about. I only wished it had happened earlier in the story.Because Viola was in such a funk for a lot of the book, it seemed as if the story was a slow climb up a hill, then a quick descent at the end. And I don¿t mean that in the sense that it crashes at the end. I mean that so much happens at the end that it seemed almost rushed. Viola deals with changes in her relationships with her parents, people in South Bend, and people in Brooklyn. The way she handled all of these changes made me realize just how much she matured during her year in boarding school, which made me like her even more than I already did.There is more to Viola¿s story, and I look definitely want to read it. My only hope is that the pacing is better balanced in future books.
bellamia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very comfortable book. It keeps you interested but nothing that jumps out at you. It's a very....comfortable story about Viola who discovers herself & new friends in a new environment. She becomes a better person after her experience.
ylin.0621 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Viola in Reel Life surprised me by how much I enjoyed this book. By the first page I was hooked by the narration and detailed description by Trigiani. I honestly don¿t know what sold me to the book. I mean the characters were good but not the oh my god version, the plotline was clean but the oh my god version, so I¿m thinking that hot damn, Adriana Trigiani can really sell it. Her voice was amazing; I was addicted to it like a bar of chocolate. Humor, sass, and love are the combination to this book. It reminded a bit of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. We have the Latina, the artsy video girl, a combination of tall, blond, and beautiful with family troubles, and the athlete. It¿s basically a sisterhood for these girls. Living together for a solid year can make that happen. I loved the girls separately and collectively. They each bring a sparkle out. As for the video making I was pleasantly interested in the process and the special effects. I was more interested in the BFFAS (best friends forever and always) Andrew. Dare I say, they have some chemistry? Sadly the novel ended before anything happened. Jared on the other hand, the one that Viola actually dated for some time, is a prick. You just don¿t know it yet, but he is. First he wraps you around his finger but being so amazing then poof. Overall: Compelled by the presence of the voice.
stephxsu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aspiring filmmaker 14-year-old Viola has been the only child of devoted documentary filmmakers her whole life, but her parents¿ overseas assignment brings her to Prefect Academy, a boarding school for girls. Viola is sure that she¿ll hate PA, but surprisingly she befriends her three roommates Marisol, Romy and Suzanne, and begins to learn that, with the help of loving friends and family, she, too, can flourish in a new environment.VIOLA IN REEL LIFE is a straightforwardly charming book about learning to survive on your own. Adriana Trigiani¿s YA debut is irresistible and chaste, perfect for readers of all ages.Viola has a certain amount of spark and wit that I admire. She is always ready with a snarky comment¿courtesy of her New York upbringing, says she¿but she remains an adorably vulnerable girl, on her own for the first time in her life.There are some aspects of this book that require some suspension of disbelief. For example, it¿s pretty remarkable that a 14-year-old already knows what she wants to do with her life. Furthermore, her dealings with boys, particularly the easy way that Jared comes so smoothly into her life, are aspects that take away from the believability of this book. Through awkward plot points¿or lack thereof¿however, Viola¿s dealings with her roommates, family, old friends, and potential love interests are realistic, and thus endearing.I really enjoyed being with Viola for her freshman year at Prefect Academy. Despite the lack of interesting plot, Viola herself is appealing, and readers will enjoy following her through this period of growth. The ending suggests the possibility of a sequel, which I wouldn¿t mind at all. VIOLA IN REEL LIFE is an agreeable addition to the world of MG and YA realistic fiction.
EdGoldberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fourteen-year-old Viola is not in Brooklyn anymore. She is involuntarily in South Bend, IN at the Prefect Academy for Young Women since 1890 for the next year, while her parents film a documentary in Afghanistan. Armed with her video camera, she intends to document her misery. She begins by filming the fields around school, voice over to follow. Viola misses her BFFAA (And Always). She is prepared to hate her roommates, but they actually seem nice. Gradually, Marisol, Suzanne and Romy begin to fill the roles of friends and family, supporting each other. Viewing her initial film later that first day, Viola notices a woman dressed in a 1920s style red costume walking across the far end of the field. She is positive this woman was not present during the filming. During first semester, Viola gets volunteered for the Founder¿s Day play, meets a boy and learns about a film contest. All seems right with the world.Viola in Reel Life, Trigiani¿s first foray in YA literature, is a predictable, tame and enjoyable book about middle school girls maturing (almost Sarah Dessen for middle school). Viola and her roommates cope with being away from home. They each have some trial to overcome. The characters are nice, the dialogue and action are interesting and the ending is apparent. The denouement regarding the red costumed woman is acceptable, not outstanding. But that¿s OK. Trigiani has deftly shown that teenage girls can be independent, have positive self images and be happy. Way better than The Clique.
bermudaonion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Viola Chesterton is from Brooklyn and her parents are documentary filmmakers. When Viola¿s parents accept an assignment in Afghanistan, Viola is sent to Prefect Academy, a boarding school in South Bend, Indiana, for a year. Viola cries as they leave and is miserable at first. She feels abandoned and lonely, and she misses her best friend back in Brooklyn.With the help of her roommates, her grandmother, and her film making abilities, Viola not only survives her first year but gains new confidence and learns a lot about herself along the way. Viola says:"Marisol just says that word sister lightly, like right off the top of her head without thinking. But all my life, I have wished for a sister. I had hoped my parents would have a baby when I was small, and then when I got to be twelve I wanted them to go to China and adopt. But Mom would always smile and say, ¿We have our hands full with you.¿ And maybe she was right. But what Mom never told me is that along the way, you find sisters, and they find you. Girls are very cool that way."Viola in Reel Life is Adriana Trigiani¿s first YA novel and I absolutely loved it! This isn¿t edgy YA, but rather a sweet story about growing up and gaining confidence. Viola is a great character because she¿s not perfect, but she tries to learn from her mistakes. I got teary-eyed in a few places as Viola grew stronger, gained some confidence and came to value her friends and family. I¿ve read that this might become a series and I really hope so!
ethel55 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sent by her documentary filmmaking parents to a boarding school in Indiana, Viola Chesterton is a budding filmmaker herself. Unhappy at being uprooted from her lively NYC life, she doesn't expect to enjoy or make friends at Prefect Academy. Fortunately for her, Trigiani weaves a sweet, slow tale of acceptance and change for Viola. Her roomies aren't so bad, there's a boys school nearby and a filmmaking contest to enter--Viola blooms where she's planted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like Trigiani's books and enjoyed this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is written in such a way that make you believe they are real people. Not fiction. I am very old but love that romance for a few months. Congratulations Adriana! Mes
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She gave a squeal.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought it was a great book. Its a quick read, but also very fun. Don't hesitate to buy it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sweet story about a girl short read but worth the time
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recommend this to a teenager like myself who is looking for a new book. It turned out to be really great! Im like Viola in that sense I guess!