Viola and her video camera return to her beloved Brooklyn after a year in private school in South Bend, Indiana. That year was chronicled in VIOLA IN REEL LIFE, the first book in the series. The budding filmmaker is so happy to be back with her best friends, BFFAA Andrew and Caitlin. On her first night back, she learns that Andrew is going to camp and Caitlin has a job. So all her plans for the summer have evaporated, leaving her at loose ends. As usual, though, Viola finds herself some adventures in this fun novel from bestselling adult author Adriana Trigiani.
Grand, her grandmother, is in a new play along with her handsome boyfriend George, and Viola is soon hired as a lighting intern, which sends her all over New York on errands. While working on the production of Arsenic and Old Lace, she comes up with the idea of bringing her Indiana roomie friends Romy, Marisol and Suzanne to the city for a reunion weekend. Skype and email aren't enough, and they plan for the event.
In the meantime, the show's director has a handsome and charming son who is coming from Britain for the summer. The two of them are renting the lower apartment Viola's family owns, and Maurice is 15 like Viola. On his first night, she and Caitlin invite him to dinner on the roof of the house; Viola sees her friend fall in love for the first time, and he with her. The problem is that Caitlin's very strict parents have a plan for her life that does not include boys and barely includes friends. While that part of the story seems stereotypical, it does develop more towards the end of the book.
Andrew comes home on occasion, and during one visit ends up kissing Viola. She does not know what to do with that; they struggle to sort out what each is ready for in terms of a relationship. Trigiani handles this delicate situation cleverly and in a way that is not in the typical Hollywood style.
The story kicks into high gear when the friends and Suzanne's parents come to New York to visit. Descriptions of the Big Apple are spot-on, and the night of the show's opening are depicted in fun detail. After that celebratory tone, the novel takes a sudden turn. While it is a realistic situation, readers will have to shift gears quickly to keep pace with some painful truths and a big surprise from Viola herself. The series and characters are fun enough to offer audiences a good summer escape.
Reviewed by Amy Alessio on April 5, 2011