Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
release date: October 12, 2010
hardcover, 336 pages
intended audience: Young adult
(my recommendation: 16+)
source: from publisher for review
18-year-old Vera's spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie. 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. Will she emerge and clear his name? Does she even want to?
Review: This story is such an original work of art. Despite a few reviews that I have seen that described this as "funny", I don't think I would call it that at all. I did laugh a few times, Vera is, after all, incredibly witty and sharp tongued, but reading this tale was a harrowing experience. I read it in spurts because the emotional toll some parts took on me. Vera is living some very harsh realities in her life: her best friend, Charlie, who she was secretly in love with has died after a heinous betrayal of their friendship that at a serious low point involved him throwing dog feces at her; her mother abandoned her and her father and she later finds out that her mother spent some time as a stripper; her father is emotional closed off and has always insisted that she avoid putting her nose where it didn't belong---which meant their whole family ignored the fact that Charlie's father used his mother as a punching bag on a daily basis. She gets so many mixed messages from everyone in her life that she is just constantly confused, swigging from her secret bottle of vodka to take the edge off and not even knowing better than to report it when some pervert she is delivering pizza to answers the door naked from the waist down. She figured she was just suppose to ignore that, too, right? Meanwhile, Charlie is haunting her by showing up as hundreds of nagging Charlie ghosts, pushing her to clear his name in the terrible circumstances that surrounded his death. The poor girl, I just felt so bad for her! It seemed more than any human being could handle, let alone a teenage girl who had recently been through some pretty rough times. Still, all this made her character's journey and emotional growth all the more fascinating to read.
Amy King is such an ingenious storyteller, its hard to imagine any other author pulling off a story like this without it being just too depressing. It masterfully flipped between several voices, including "Vera past" and "Vera present", with little interjected input from her dad, Charlie, and even the much referred-to landmark, the Pagoda. See..witty stuff. Who else would even imagine adding in comments from the make-out site/city landmark?? Brilliant move that added much needed lightness to a very heavy story.
Highly recommended, but steel yourself...this one is a bit of a bumpy emotional ride.