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Author: Jenny Lundquist
Published By: Aladdin (2017)
Synopsis: Violet Barnaby searches for the joy in life after losing her mother in this sweet and funny follow-up to The Charming Life of Izzy Malone.
Violet Barnaby is a having a blue Christmas. She’s still grieving the loss of her mother, and to make things worse, her dad has just married Melanie Harmer, a.k.a. the meanest teacher at Dandelion Hollow Middle School. But on the day Violet and her dad are packing up and moving into the new house they’ll share with Melanie and Melanie’s two children, Violet finds a letter her mother wrote to her before she died, asking Violet to enjoy Christmas, along with a Christmas Wish List—things her mom wants her to do during the holiday season. On the list are exactly the kinds of things Violet doesn’t want to do this year, like Be Someone’s Secret Santa; Give Someone the Gift of Your Time: Volunteer; and Bake Christmas Cookies.
Violet shows the letter to her friend Izzy’s Aunt Mildred, who calls a meeting of the Charm Girls, a club Izzy and Violet belong to along with their friends, Daisy and Sophia. Aunt Mildred decides she will give them each a charm to put on their bracelet if they do all of the tasks on the Christmas Wish List, which Violet is not too happy about. She’d rather forget about the list completely, but feels compelled to honor her mother’s wishes.
And when Izzy’s crush confides a big secret to Violet, Violet feels like she is stuck between her best friend and the boy who she just might have a crush on, too… (Taken from Goodreads).
I loved this book! It was similiar in feel to its predecessor, but so different—though connected, it could easily be a standalone. I loved Violet; she was such a fantastic protagonist and so relatable, too. We so easily see the world through her eyes and understand her and why she does the things she does. We groan when she makes mistakes, but we understand why, too. We laugh with her, we cry with her, and we love her.
I loved seeing her interactions with the Charm Girls, and loved the friendship themes with both Izzy and Olivia; I found it very authentic to middle school dynamics. The novel dealt with some harder themes—such as death and stepfamiles—but ultimately handed it in a gentle, yet genuine, way. It was a highly inspiring and encouraging novel of hope and friendship, full of beautiful themes and I would highly recommend it to ages 8+.
Overall: I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, even though I am definitely above the recommended age range. It was clean and free of negative or questionable aspects, and it promoted a message of hope and strength amid struggles in a relatable way that I believe will be very impactful to younger audiences.
Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
Recommended to: Ages 8+.