Genres: Magical Realism, YA Contemporary
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.
This being a Printz Honor book and coming to me via a recommendation from an intelligent friend made me think Please Ignore Vera Dietz was going to wow me, but such was not the case. To an extent, what makes so many people love this novel and the author’s works is clear, but what has made this such a darling of critics eludes me.
If it makes any sense, this novel is set apart from more typical friend/family member-dies books more by what it doesn’t do wrong than what it does right. More than a few books get overdramatic about the teen’s problems. “OMG MY BEST FRIEND/MOM/CAT DIIIIIED AND I’M SO SAAAAAD LIFE WILL NEVER BE OKAY AGAAAAAAAIN!” is how it turns out half the time. Vera’s problems are handled much more subtly through quick bites of sarcasm and flashbacks to how things were before Charlie’s death, back when they were still friends.
The relationship between Charlie and Vera is really well-written, and it amazes me that one relationship can be given so much shown support when another is completely and utterly told to us. Vera’s voice is so direct that it’s hard not to get with her sometimes. Occasionally, there are even some quotable bits. This came from page 44 after she explains how her father’s policy for problems is “just ignore it”:
“I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. If we’re supposed to ignore everything that’s wrong with our lives, then I can’t see how we’ll ever make things right.”
Moments like this happen on occasion and they are what makes me see a little of what my friends love so much. Still, I have more problems with this novel than good things to say.
Toward the two-thirds mark, the novel started to stall. I was no longer interested in the characters, the mean girl Jenny Flick is being demonized to hell and back (which made me pretty angry), and all the interesting bits that make the first part of the story fun to read seem to be gone. Eventually, I skipped to the last thirty pages.
Early in the novel, Vera slut-shames when she says Jenny looks like “a slutty linebacker raccoon” (p.55) because of how much eyeliner the girl wears. This is not the only instance by a long shot and each new one sent my blood pressure upward. Screw Vera. A pox on her house for that. Screw all the characters who were doing it, realistic or no.
Speaking of things that make me say “screw Vera,” the all-important night on which Charlie died is one on which she was a massive idiot. She deals with her mistake, but I absolutely cannot see why she made it in the first place when there was obvious something more she could do to stop the fire.
I hear a lot of good things about A.S. King’s books, but I doubt I will be reading more of them. Not my cup of tea.