I’d seen A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz on several lists (it’s a Printz Honor Book, nominated for an Edgar Award, and on ALA’s list for best books for Young Adults,) so when I saw it on my trip to the public library Monday afternoon, I knew I needed to read it next. Aside from my excitement, I really didn’t know what I was in for when I started reading. This novel, narrated by eighteen year old Vera Dietz tugged on my heart-strings during the three-day read. She was in love with her neighbor-best friend Charlie Kahn her whole life, and then BAM! He’s dead. How did he die? What were his secrets? Why did he hang out with the Detentionheads and gross Jenny Flick? Why is he haunting her?
Her hippie “Zen Master” dad Ken, an accountant, is always trying to help steer Vera in the right direction, to a different ‘destiny’ than her mother’s and his. He tries to instill the value of responsibility encouraging her to get a full-time job on top of school. Vera works at the Pizza Pagoda as a delivery technician, and it’s really not that bad of a gig. She’s got some cool co-workers, her boss is nice, and she makes good money. It does give Charlie free range to haunt her though, as he presses her to “clear his name.” (Clear his name from what, readers won’t know yet.)
Vera’s a smart girl, (heck she uses her vocabulary words in sentences on a regular basis,) but she’s riddled by grief, and her passionate resistance to end up like her mother – cold and resentful. Her wisdom seems to come from an old soul, while she still makes some normal teenage decisions. As we learn about Charlie, his skills, his caring heart, his zest for life and then his own family issues that tear that zest to shreds – my heart just aches. I wanted to hug him through the pages. I wanted to tell him “it gets better.”
This novel is a journey through the life events that shaped these characters, a mix of regrets and the good moments. Vera struggles with her hate and love for Charlie, his betrayal and her struggle to let him go. Ken and Vera navigate life around her mother’s absence, not yet truly acknowledging the effects of her abandonment.
I’m not good at describing books in great detail without spoilers, but I’ll say that this book made my heart ache, and my head pound as I felt Vera’s frustration, but there were also moments of laughter, and positive sentiment channeling Vera’s determination to make a good life for herself.
King interjects Vera’s chapters with little excerpts from Ken, Charlie and the Pagoda itself, which were some of my favorite parts. Readers can know the love these characters have for Vera and what motivated their actions.
I am definitely a reader who gets swept away in the story, but with Please Ignore Vera Dietz I felt like I was in it, like my mood by the events on the page I was reading. I definitely urge you to ignore Vera no longer, and go ahead and READ THIS!