Author: A.S. King
Publication Date: 10/12/10
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.
Edit: For some reason, many people seem to be finding this review while looking for the setting of Please Ignore Vera Dietz--it is set in an unnamed town outside Philadelphia. Somewhere in Eastern Pennsylvania. (at least I can't remember the author ever mentioning the name.)
Vera Dietz is a good person. This book is like watching Vera in the gallows being pelted with tomatoes until she is finally released to go on her way. Her lifelong best friend Charlie just passed away under somewhat mysterious circumstances, the town blames him for something which tarnishes his reputation, and Vera is being harassed by some of her schoolmates. The thing about Vera, and I absolutely loved her as a character, is that she just deals with it. She is angry with Charlie, she hates him and she loves him and she realizes it is possible to feel both of those feelings at the same time. She resents all the choices that he made that led up to his death and she resents herself for not doing something more to help him.
Vera’s father has been raising her as a single dad since his wife skipped town. The narration, which skips between Vera, her father, Charlie, and even a town architectural landmark, lets us know that the main characters are all worried about being foregone conclusions. Are we all destined to be like our parents or what everyone tells us we’ll become? I truly hope not, not because my parents aren’t lovely people but because that would be a sad state of affairs. Vera’s father Ken struggles with Vera drinking because he is an alcoholic. Vera worries about becoming like her absent mother. Charlie worried about becoming an abuser like his father. We all worry about something.
I can absolutely see why this book was a Printz Honor pick. Vera’s voice is very matter-of-fact but her contemplations and commentary were funny at times, poignant at others, and she keeps a level-head for almost the entire book. She deals with her missteps while still trying to figure out how to grieve for her best friend who was mostly lost to her even before he died. I’m reading another book right now where someone has just passed away (Minding Frankie) and a character talks about that saying that a person remembered through memories or mentions is never truly gone. Or how Jacob Coote tells Josie Alibrandi that he dealt with his mother’s death by crying at the memories until one day, he could smile or laugh at them. (Looking for Alibrandi) This book takes place before Vera has come to terms with the loss but by the end, it was clear that she was no longer using a band-aid to cover up a gaping wound.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz was very successful in audio format. The narrator’s Vera was perfect and I appreciated the fact that male narrators pitched in for the points in the story not narrated by Vera. I’m curious whether the descriptions of flow charts in the narration were actually flow chart images in the book so maybe someone who knows can chime in with an answer. I would absolutely recommend it in this format.
I’m excited to check out A.S. King’s upcoming Everybody Sees The Ants. After reading a review that said it had similar themes, I’m hoping that it will be sufficiently different but retain a similar tone. This one was sad but weirdly hopeful. It was about 4.5/5 for me.