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.
(Summary from GoodReads)
I can’t believe I waited until 2014 to read an A.S. King book considering how many people I know rave about her books. I decided Please Ignore Vera Dietz should be my first pick by this author because of all her books, it sounded the most like something I would typically enjoy. Vera Dietz’s story is well constructed and well written, but a few details held it back from being as moving as it could be.
I got a really clear sense of setting throughout this entire book. I could not only envision it easily, but also understand which parts made Vera happy and which made her feel frustrated, and which parts mad her feel some of both. The Pagoda having its own perspective added some nice depth in characterizing Vera’s town and its people. In fact, King did a great job of balancing multiple perspectives throughout this story—we hear from Charlie and there are some passages and flowcharts from Vera’s father as well. I especially loved the flowcharts because they added so much emotional impact and fit the father’s character. There’s also some magical realism here that was especially well done.
If you’re not familiar with this title or King’s body of work as a whole (I know the premises of her other books, despite not having read them), this book addresses tough issues. Abuse and adults who act inappropriately around teens are both in these books, and the depictions of these were so realistic that it felt scarily familiar. When it comes to expressing the confusion and emotion that comes with these issues, King nails it.
Where Please Ignore Vera Dietz fell a bit flat for me was characterization. For the most part, Vera was well developed, but some of the secondary characters weren’t as well done. I think King didn’t want everything to be crystal clear, and I think that intention can be especially fair where magical realism is involved. However, there are also times when I want a deeper rationale behind how a character has acted, and I felt like I was missing that here.
Overall, this book leaves me with a positive impression of King as a writer. It seems like sometimes I either relate to the characters in a story or am impressed by the writing, but both are the case here. The nit picky details that frustrated me probably won’t bother other readers, and I’d happily pass this off to readers who want a heavy contemporary.
Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.
For our May pick, we decided to let people who were at the April chat suggest titles from our #WednesdayYA shelves on GoodReads and draw one out of a hat. Sam's suggestion turned out to be our winner!
Happy reading, and we look forward to seeing you at the chat!