Author: A.S. King
Publication Date: 10/12/10
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Blurb (GR): Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.
So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?
Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.
Let me just get this out of the way, I am glad I gave A.S. King another chance. I liked her debut novel (The Dust of 100 Dogs) OK, for its creativity and originality, but I wasn't wowed by it. Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a better, even though more mainstream, YA novel.
I don't know how it happened, but I've read quite a few YA books about death and grief over the last couple of months (I Heart You, You Haunt Me, Revolution, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour), however Please Ignore Vera Dietz is definitely the one I enjoyed the most.
Vera's long-time childhood friend Charlie is dead. She is hurt by his death, but her feelings are ambiguous. Their relationship has been difficult and not always happy, maybe they even hated each other at some point. They used to be so close and yet so separated by their preconceived notions that a romance between them would never work. After all, they both have so much emotional baggage. Vera has to work through many deliciously convoluted aspects of her friendship with Charlie in her mind to finally find peace with him...
Please Ignore Vera Dietz is the kind of story I love to read the most in YA fiction. It is not over-burdened with romance, where a boy miraculously solves all heroine's problems, it is character driven. Vera is a multi-dimensional character, she has to face her past and deal with her mistakes and regrets in regard to Charlie. Her grief is palpable, but not expressed in hysterical fits and throwing herself around in despair, like it often is in teen lit. Vera's actions speak for it. Her inner world is complex - there are issues she has to deal with that add another layer to this already great story - how can she live up to her father's expectations? how can she get over her mother's abandonment? how can she overcome her seemingly pre-written destiny?
The more I think about this novel, the more I like it. It is not as quirky as The Dust of 100 Dogs, there are no pirates, magic dust or doggy lessons, but it is unique in its own way. I like that Zen Buddhism wisdom is added into the story. There is a ghost who sheds some light on the events. And there is the Pagoda with some opinions of her own. It all works beautifully together. As a whole, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is just one clever novel.
P.S. Who knew pizza delivery business was such a dangerous occupation? I will absolutely never, under any circumstances, do it, knowing now that there are people who open their doors to delivery people with no pants on and in "full alert."