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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

'Please Ignore Vera Dietz' by A.S. King

From the BLURB:

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?

Charlie Kahn is dead, and Vera Dietz can’t decide if she still loves him or hates him irrevocably.

In the aftermath of death, Charlie has become a villainous cautionary tale for Vera’s classmates. The events surrounding his death are shady, horrendous and psychopathic.

But Vera knows the truth that could clear Chalie’s name. And Charlie wants to be proven innocent – he haunts Vera with his paper-cut-out ghosts who fold like an accordion around Vera in the small confines of her car or at the Pagoda Pizza Delivery shop where she works.

But Vera has her own problems. Like convincing her Zen-like dad that she isn’t succumbing to his lousy alcoholic genes. Or convincing herself that she’s nothing like her stripper mother who abandoned the family when Vera was twelve. Vera also has to convince herself that her friendship with Charlie meant something, and wasn’t tossed away because of some Detentionhead losers who stole him away from her in the months leading up to his death.

Vera Dietz may just want to be ignored – by her dad, classmates, arch-nemesis Jenny Flick and the thousand-and-one Charlie’s who haunt her daily. But some things you can’t ignore . . . like the truth.

‘Please Ignore Vera Dietz’ is the acclaimed Printz Honor novel from literary young adult author, A.S. King.

Urgh.
Wow.
Sigh.

Words cannot express (but I’ll try).

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you one of my new all-time favourite novels – ‘Please Ignore Vera Dietz’. This, *this* right here is why young adult novels are more than the sum of their parts. When somebody gives me a perplexed look after I tell them that I write and most enjoy YA books – I wish I could shove ‘Please Ignore Vera Dietz’ down their throats and make them eat it the same way Vera and Charlie eat their napkins. A.S. King is exquisite proof that some of the most exciting and refreshing writing are being explored in the genre intended for younger readers. The young adult genre is the cable television network of writing (HBO, baby!). Everyone may think that movies and adult literary fiction are where it’s at – but cynics and critics need only look to ‘Vera Dietz’ to know the truly astounding work that lies within this genre.


When the novel begins Vera is eviscerated by her emotions. Her childhood best friend (turned enemy in recent months) has just passed away under a cloud of suspicion. Vera misses Charlie every day . . . while also hating him for the way he treated her before his death. But Vera’s emotions are even more complex than that. Because Vera loved Charlie, even when she hated him she loved him. And now that he’s dead she loves to hate him even more in a never-ending spiral of mixed messages and hopeless emotions for a dead kid.


Is it okay to hate a dead kid? Even if you loved him once? Even if he was my best friend? Is it okay to hate him for being dead?

Vera’s grudge extends to her reluctance in helping ‘ghost’ Charlie clear his name. Vera holds the key to Charlie’s innocence . . . but before she can find it in her to forgive him enough to free him, she has to go back to where it all began . . .

The story back-tracks through Charlie and Vera’s history. Sometimes figments of memory feel empty and pointless – like tossing paper airplanes off the rocks overlooking the Pagoda shopping mall. Other times previously forgotten memories take on bigger-than-life meaning . . . like a white Chrysler cruising by. Or the wall-shaking fights that come from the Kahn house next door.

Interjecting Vera’s recounts is the dead kid himself, putting his two cents in from beyond the grave. Also piping up is the inanimate object, Pagoda – a monument to failed dreams and questionable symbolism. Vera’s dad also has a thing or two to say – about how Vera is coping with Charlie’s death (not well, and with copious amounts of alcohol).


And as Vera remembers, she misses and mourns. She mourns the tree-climbing friendship she and Charlie had in their youth, and she misses the future she and Charlie don’t have to mend.


Because with Charlie, nothing was ever easy. Everything was windswept and octagonal and finger-combed. Everything was difficult and odd, and the theme songs all had minor chords.

‘Please Ignore Vera Dietz’ is a novel of magnificence. It’s about bullying and grief, abandonment and ignoring a problem until it festers and explodes. But above all else, it’s a novel of forgiveness. Forgiving people their mistakes and bad choices, the hurts inflicted and sorry’s never given.

5/5

3 comments:

  1. PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ has been sitting on my bookshelf for the longest time. I read and loved THE DUST OF 100 DOGS but I just never got around to reading PIVD. And I really need to. I've heard nothing but great praise for it.

    Great review. I've thrown my copy at the top of my TBR.

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  2. I completely agree with everything you've said here. I adored Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and the way I completely fell in love with Charlie despite his many, many problems.
    Plus the sections from Vera's dad and the pagoda -- while I was reading, the pagoda always reminded me of this Chinese building I see every time I take a train into the city, perpetually three-quarters built -- were amazing.

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  3. This looks amazing, and I would never have heard of it if it weren't for you review! Thanks!! (:

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