Violets Are Blue

For seventh grader Wren, life is suddenly full of big changes: her parents’ divorce and Dad’s remarriage, her move with Mom to a new town. So she distracts herself with a new obsession: watching special effects makeup videos by internet sensation Cat FX.  Of all the fantasy characters Cat FX re-creates, Wren’s favorite is the mermaid, but somehow she can’t duplicate Cat FX’s technique. Is something missing?

When Mom insists Wren pull herself away from her laptop, Wren agrees to do makeup for the middle school production of the musical Wicked. Soon she’s so involved with the show, her new friendship with Poppy, and dealing with Kai’s crush that she isn’t focused on Mom’s disappearances. Or on the weird lock on Mom’s bedroom door. Or on the number of pill bottles in Mom’s medicine cabinet.

But when Wren can’t ignore Mom’s behavior any longer, she sets out to find Cat FX. Will Cat FX reveal the secret of the mermaid–and possibly something about real life?

From the author of the acclaimed Maybe He Just Likes You and My Life in the Fish Tank comes a moving and relatable novel about secrets, family, and the power of forgiveness.

Coming September 28, 2021

A Junior Library Guild selection

Check out the Reading Group Guide for Violets Are Blue

Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, Hardcover
ISBN 978-1-5344-6918-1
Ages 9-13, Grades 4-8

“I loved Barbara Dee’s Violets Are Blue. Wren is a character that a lot of readers are going to fall hard for. From start to finish, this one is a winner. Highly recommend.  (5/5 stars) “

Colby Sharp, educator and author; founder, NerdCamp

“Dee addresses with aplomb important topics such as opioid addiction, divorce, bullying, and moving. This inspired novel deftly depicts the self-doubt and loneliness that many children (and adults) feel.”

School Library Journal

“Barbara Dee has done it AGAIN! She tackles tough topics with such great care. She is to middle schoolers today what Judy Blume was to me in the 80s. I give Violets Are Blue ALL the stars and thumbs up.”

Amanda Jones, 2021 School Library Journal Co-Librarian of the Year

“Dee again successfully tackles tough topics, making them relatable for middle-grade readers.”


“Weaving two very different but timely topics–makeup tutorial videos and opioid addiction–Dee’s frequently poignant middle grade novel depicts the ways that both adults and children can feel out of control. … With flawed, realistic characters and dynamics, this reconciliatory novel is a believable balm for young people at the mercy of adult choices and scenarios.”

Publishers Weekly

“A touching, realistic story about a mother-daughter relationship and its ups and downs.”

Kirkus Reviews

Violets Are Blue will break your heart and then piece it back together with infinite care. Barbara Dee expertly captures the struggle to be known and loved within a narrative that presents the complicated reality of addiction. Both Wren and her mother will stay with you long after this story is done.”

Jamie Sumner, author of Roll With It and Tune It Out

“Barbara Dee tunes into issues that impact middle schoolers and writes about them with compassion, insight, and just plain excellent storytelling. I loved this absorbing, accessible novel, which explores the heartbreaking effects of opioid addiction while also celebrating the joys of discovering a passion and finding people who understand you.”

Laurie Morrison, author of Up For Air and Saint Ivy

“Barbara Dee has done it again! Violets Are Blue is an emotionally rich story that masterfully weaves life’s messy feelings while gently and thoughtfully tackling the difficult subject of opioid addiction. Beautiful. Complicated. And full of heart. A must read!

Elly Swartz, author of Smart Cookie and Give and Take

Violets Are Blue tackles the subject of addiction with hope and compassion. Readers will cheer for Wren in this story about family bonds broken and redefined, learning to trust, and being true to yourself. I loved it!

Lynne Kelly, author of Song for a Whale

Told realistically and with compassion, Violets Are Blue provides a fascinating look into the world of special effects makeup, budding friendships, family, and the secrets we keep.”

Melanie Sumrow, author of The Inside Battle and The Prophet Calls

Barbara Dee is my favorite middle grade author because she writes kids like actual kids–not like sitcom kids, not like adults in kids’ bodies…. Brava to Dee for yet another stunning story. Required purchase for all middle grade collections.”

Kate Olson, Librarian

“Barbara Dee is one of my top 10 favorite middle grade authors. She has an ability to capture the middle school experience better than almost anyone else.”

Laura Gardner, SLJ School Librarian of the Year 2016 finalist