Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
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?
A.S. King's ability to write a book that feels real, no matter what unrealistic elements are included in it, is one of my favorite things about her writing. Her characters could live down the street from you, or have the locker next to yours. Vera is no exception. Even with a touch of the supernatural (hello, Charlie), Vera's story resembles that of thousands of ordinary teenagers: falling in love with your neighbor, dealing with grief, dealing with your parents and their philosophies...
Vera and Charlie are both brilliant characters; they're complicated and flawed but still likable. Interestingly, they are mirror-images of each other as well. The other characters are also pretty well hashed out, although we don't get as close a look at them. Even Jenny Flick - cast as the crazy, slacker bitch - was reasonably developed.
I absolutely love the way the book is narrated: Vera tells the story with brief, occasionally wise, interludes from her father, Charlie, and the Pagoda. Mr. Dietz's parts filled in the holes of Vera's backstory and explained a lot of her eccentricities (another thing I loved - seeing just how much Vera and Charlie's respective parents influenced them). Having the Pagoda - an inanimate object - interrupt every few chapters was genius on King's part. I feel like that pagoda taught me something about the world, although I have absolutely no idea what it is.
Another stroke of King's genius came in the form of Charlie, the pickle in Vera's Big Mac. King puts forth a very interesting view of death. Charlie's dead, but he isn't exactly in an afterlife, nor is he a typical ghost. As he tries to communicate with Vera and get her to clear his name, the reader learns a little at a time about his death and Vera's life with him. Suspense in waiting to find out how Charlie died, and why his name needs clearing in the first place, is well-paced. I don't think I stopped reading for more than an hour at a time
I would recommend Please Ignore Vera Dietz to A.S. King fans and people who like really good contemporary books. You won't be disappointed.
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