Ah, just like a slice of Junior’s cheesecake, A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz feels fresh, exciting and palate cleansing! And it’s not just me who thinks so. The novel was praised by the ALA as a Printz Honor Book and deservedly so. I guess, this is one of those books that has it all: excellently developed main character(s), some quirky point of views (the town pagoda, for instance), a little bit of mystery (how did Charlie die, why did he and Vera fall out, how can Vera clear his name, etc.), a huge amount of heart and of course pizza!
Vera Dietz’s best friend Charlie died. Right before he died, they fell out, and now Vera has to come to terms with losing Charlie all over again. Vera is and is not your average 17-year-old. She’s not from the ‘best’ of families and ever since her mom took off, Vera’s father has been trying to prevent Vera from becoming just like her gene pool predicts. Good parenting to Vera’s dad has become synonymous with letting Vera know that you don’t get nothing for nothing, and so please ignore anything that might tempt you to become any of the things your parents were, be that a teenage mom (*do not date Charlie!*), an alcoholic (dad was before he cleaned up his act and become an accountant), a stripper (Vera’s mom) or all of those combined. Sounds like a complicated life and a juggling act all in itself. Add to that that Vera just tries not to draw any unnecessary attention to herself at school – please ignore Vera Dietz – and you get a potentially explosive cocktail of teenage strife and tragedy.
The book though is never gloomy or depressing, despite the myriad of topics it touches upon (drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, broken families, animal abuse, arson, pedophilia, white supremacy, to name just a few…). Instead A.S. King has managed to come up with the most readable of ‘teenage trauma’ books I’ve read in a long while. Her writing style is incredibly witty and crisp – yes, John Green fans, you will like this.
And though the book starts with a death and a funeral and you’re left to wonder what happened to Charlie, it’s not the mystery that’s at the center of this book. Instead, you get a character-driven novel, commenting on how everyone deals with the guilt they’re feeling towards their past actions and decisions in a different way, even the dead Charlie! Instead you get reflections on family, friendship and love. Vera’s voice, stands out, though: her character is deliciously complex and flawed. At times you’ll be jumping out of your seat, wanting to yell at her for making the wrong decision (the drinking, the denial of her grief over Charlie’s death). At other times you’ll be rooting for her, or crying with her, or just feeling for her.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a gem amongst YA-literature: multi-layered, complex, funny. Get this book. Now.