Book Review: Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani (3/5)

14 May

I picked this up when I went to meet Adriana Trigiani as part of the last installment of the Everyone’s Reading program in Metro Detroit. I was lucky enough to live within walking distance of the event and went with my mom. I didn’t know much about her books beside her latest release so I was excited to see a YA title and decided to pick it up. She was wonderful I absolutely adored hearing her speak. With my exercise increase, I was in need of some audiobooks and this one was available and I was able to fly through it in three days.

Cover image via Goodreads

Viola in Reel Life (Viola #1) by Adriana Trigiani

Other books by Trigiani reviewed on this blog:

Kiss Carlo (and book club discussion and another book club discussion and an author event)

Summary from Goodreads:

Viola doesn’t want to go to boarding school, but somehow she ends up at an all-girls school in South Bend, Indiana, far, far away from her home in Brooklyn, New York. Now Viola is stuck for a whole year in the sherbet-colored sweater capital of the world.


There’s no way Viola’s going to survive the year—especially since she has to replace her best friend Andrew with three new roommates who, disturbingly, actually seem to like it there. She resorts to viewing the world (and hiding) behind the lens of her video camera.

Boarding school, though, and her roommates and even the Midwest are nothing like she thought they would be, and soon Viola realizes she may be in for the most incredible year of her life.

But first she has to put the camera down and let the world in.

This was a pretty standard high school story for me. Viola being in an all-girls boarding school added a slight element, but it felt like freshman year of college instead of high school in a few ways. The biggest thing that made this stand out for me was the artistic careers of her family members. Her parents putting her in school while they filmed a documentary in Afghanistan and a grandmother who is still a working actress were really different. It was refreshing to see someone who felt of art as a career instead of a hobby. Having met Trigiani, I think she had similar feelings while she grew up. There was a good mix of characters in Viola’s world and I appreciated the things that were left unexplained so they could be part of a sequel. This did a good job of checking the boxes about becoming independent and developing a sense of community during the teenage years. My biggest complaint is that it might have been a bit too clean.

My book inscription

Viola and her roommates were well crafted. There was a good mix of diversity amongst the girls and still a believable line that they are all wealthy enough to be at boarding school in the Midwest. I think Suzanne was my favorite of the roommates. There was a hint that she was hiding something early on and I thought that the reveal was well done and I understood why she was quiet about it at first. Romy was probably the least developed of the roommates and I’d hope she gets more of a starring role in a sequel.

Gran was my favorite character. I like the idea of grandmothers who text and send cookies. I got cookies from my grandma in the mail in college but she was a little too old to figure out texting (88 at the time). I see my mother-in-law interact with my nieces using technology that my grandparents never used and it makes me really excited about how we’ll continue to connect with family using technology even when we’re far apart. Back to Gran, though. Her over-the-top personality and dramatics were wonderful and made her even more fun. I’d love to meet her.

I went to college in southern Indiana and the feelings Viola had when her parents dropped her off were a lot like how I felt when my dad dropped me off at school. I didn’t want him to leave because I felt like I was left in a strange (and very warm by comparison) place where I was expected to thrive and I wasn’t sure I could do it. I didn’t know anyone from my high school who went to the same college and I was scared. Viola’s reactions were really relatable to me and I felt like this story was almost written for me with how much that aspect of her experience resonated with me.

Me and Adriana Trigiani, April 2019

I had a very similar experience to Viola when she went home with Suzanne for Thanksgiving. I went home with a friend in a group for Spring Break. We drove to Maryland and stayed with his parents and sister. We went into DC for a day and the Baltimore Aquarium and had an amazing time. It’s still one of my fondest memories from my Freshman year of school. And this friend also had a cute older brother. It brought back some really fond memories that I haven’t explored in a while.

There wasn’t anything I particularly disliked about this book. I thought it was odd that Viola couldn’t think that Andrew had a crush on her because it seemed very obvious to me. That was the only frustration I had. I think my rating is mostly because it didn’t seem like there was much unusual about Viola’s story that made it particularly different from most Freshman Year stories.

My audiobook was narrated by Emily Eiden. I liked the sass she gave to Viola which was very appropriate for her attitude and age. She gave good voices to the other characters as well, especially Grand. This probably contributed to how much I liked her.

High school is a time for a lot of change. Viola was pushed to experience this a little faster than a lot of 14-year-olds because of the boarding school experience but it made for a good focus for her freshman year. I wonder how much she has changed from her St. Anne’s life and if she’ll want to return to school in New York or return to South Bend for another year at PA.

Writer’s Takeaway: Characters need something to make them unique and memorable. I think Viola’s love for film was very different from most YA heroines I’ve met. I did feel like the inter-school competition was a bit cliched, but it made for good development in her romantic relationship. It can be hard to avoid cliches in YA literature because so much has been written already. Boarding school will always make me think of Harry Potter and all-girls schools will make me think of Louise Rennison. I think it’s hard to find something to make a book or character stand out in today’s market.

A fun and quick read but nothing that stuck out too much. Three out of Five Stars

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani- Review by Michelle Haseltine | Nerdy Book Club
Viola in Reel Live, Adrianna Trigiani | Class Bookworm
Review: Viola in Reel Life, by Adriana Trigiani | Purely Olivia
Viola in Reel Life | myliterarylearnings
Review: Viola in Reel Life | BermudaOnion’s Weblog


10 Responses to “Book Review: Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani (3/5)”

  1. BermudaOnion May 14, 2020 at 11:42 AM #

    I keep hoping for more Viola books.


    • Sam May 14, 2020 at 6:49 PM #

      Was the second one good? I’m trying to decide if I should continue the series. Happy reading!


  2. silverbuttonbooks May 14, 2020 at 12:28 PM #

    This sounds so cute that I will have to check it out. Love the writer’s perspective take-away!


    • Sam May 14, 2020 at 6:50 PM #

      Thanks! It was really cute and I enjoyed it. Happy reading!


  3. Becky Ross Michael May 15, 2020 at 10:22 AM #

    I love the Big Stone Gap series by this author!


    • Sam May 15, 2020 at 10:42 AM #

      From the talk she gave, I think that one was really personal for her. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Rae Longest May 18, 2020 at 4:13 PM #

    I like stories set in boarding schools. The interplay of female friendships is fascinating.


    • Sam May 18, 2020 at 7:45 PM #

      Yeah, it was like a college coming of age combination and I enjoyed it. It does feel a bit overdone for the number of people who actually attend boarding schools. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person


  1. WWW Wednesday, 20-May-2020 | Taking On a World of Words - May 20, 2020

    […] posted my review of Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani on Thursday. It was a light, fun ride and I gave the book Three out of Five […]


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    […] Starless Sea // Erin Morgenstern (4/5) The Bookseller // Cynthia Swanson (3/5) Viola In Reel Life // Adriana Trigiani (3/5) The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky // Mackenzi Lee (4/5) White […]


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