I am a fan of girls' boarding school stories. I love the girl community aspect of them--the enforced social bonds of the setting, in which the individual personalities of the girls play out. And so Viola in Reel Life, by Adriana Trigiani (HarperCollins, 2009, YA, 282pp), was right up my alley.
Fourteen-year old Viola had no interested in being plonked in a girls' boarding school in South Bend, Indiana while her parents went off to shoot a documentary in Afghanistan. She was quite happy as a city girl in Brooklyn. But now she's sharing a room with three other girls, and has to decide if she wants to be defiantly lonely, filming life obsessively without living it to the fullest, or part of the group. Fortunately for Viola, she picks the latter, and her three room-mates, all very different, become her friends. And when Viola enters a documentary competition, each offers her strengths to the project, making it the best movie Viola's ever made.
In the meantime, there's the cute boy at the nearby boy's boarding school to distract her. But back in New York, her old best friend, Andrew, seems to be changing....
And who is the woman in red, who appears mysteriously in Viola's videos? Are the grounds of the school haunted? (This turns out to be a rather slight sub-plot, adding a bit of mystery and metaphorical point without pushing the story into fantasy).
A very pleasant, diverting read--strong on girl friendship, and with the added interest of documentary film making. It's all a little too good to be true (in fact, I kept misreading the name of the boarding school, the Prefect Academy, as the Perfect Academy). But a very nice younger YA to read when one is tired of Heavy, Issue-filled books. Viola is an engaging heroine, backed up by a fine supporting cast.
(disclaimer: copy received from the publisher)