The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods is a new acquisition at my local library that caught my eye. I checked it out despite the crazy amount of ARCs I currently have to review and was excited when I found a slot where I could actually slip it into the schedule. It is a heartwarming story of family and identity and I'm glad that I found it.
Violet is a smart, funny, brown-eyed, brown-haired girl in a family of blonds. Her mom is white, and her dad, who died before she was born, was black. She attends a mostly white school where she sometimes feels like a brown leaf on a pile of snow. She’s tired of people asking if she’s adopted. Now that Violet’s eleven, she decides it’s time to learn about her African American heritage. And despite getting off to a rocky start trying to reclaim her dad’s side of the family, she can feel her confidence growing as the puzzle pieces of her life finally start coming together. Readers will cheer for Violet, sharing her joy as she discovers her roots.
Violet is a typical MG age girl. She longs for a kitten, fights with and loves her family, enjoys spending time with her friends, and likes to ice skate (but is not overly ambitious about it or talented at it). All this makes her an easily accessible character for any reader. Her voice is strong and pulls you into the story right aways, making her sympathetic even if you have no way of identifying with her particular struggle. I found the way Woods set up Violet's conflicted feelings and struggle with her heritage to be believable and subtle. She does this by presenting different scenes where aspects of Violet's daily interactions, the prejudices and questions she has to deal with, are revealed clearly. Her frustration with it is palpable. This just makes her all the more relatable and her situation seem that much more important and real.
The plot is a slow one. This isn't a book with a lot of action. It is about a girl figuring out her place in her family and the world, and focuses more on character. What is nice, is that Woods doesn't drag it out. She keeps the prose, while beautifully worded in places, from being too philosophical or didactic. She tells her story in such a way that a reader in the target audience can maintain interest despite the lack of intense action. There are places where I found the prose to be a little awkward, particularly in certain conversations. Yet there are places where true brilliance shows through in the prose too.
This is a perfect book to give a reader who likes realistic fiction, particularly stores about friendships and family.