It’s been weeks since I read it but this novel is still very present in my mind. Vera and Charlie are still with me. And just the other day, when someone said pizza, I thought…Vera Dietz. This is the kind of book that conjures up that conflicted feeling writers get when they are completely AWED by a novel, LOVE it, and are totally JEALOUS of the author who penned it because, man…it is just that good. Yeah, it’s one of those books.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz is about Vera dealing with the sudden death of her best friend, Charlie, and the mystery surrounding it. She knows more than anyone else, but won’t say what she knows. Instead, she swallows it up, let’s the guilt of not being able to help Charlie (and not wanting to when she could) weigh her down, consume her, and possibly destroy her.
So, several things officially make this my new favorite YA book, but I’ll start with the characters.
First there’s Vera Dietz—incredibly strong, vulnerable, complex Vera. While she is absolutely hell bent on numbing and denying her grief over her best friend’s death, her pain absolutely permeates the pages. Vera is determined to bury the past along with Charlie and the questions surrounding his death, but no matter how strong Vera is, this is something that may be bigger and stronger than she is. And her only real friend, the one who’s always been there (at least until the months preceding his death) is gone. The struggles Vera faces and the way she puts herself in danger in order to deal with everything, is both terrifying and heart-wrenching. The reader can’t help but feel for her, especially when her potential for self-destruction, a self-destruction not unlike Charlie’s, threatens to make Vera yet another victim in this hard-knocks town.
Then there’s Charlie. For a dead guy, he certainly jumps off the page. I mean, the reader comes to know Charlie as well as Vera does and in the process…he almost becomes this obnoxious, misunderstood, sensitive, infuriating best friend to the reader. And because you learn of his past and his secrets, you come to feel for him the same way that Vera does. Sometimes you hate him, sometimes you wish he’d had more sense, sometimes he’s a jerk, sometimes you feel sorry for him, but mostly, you love him…and you wish things could have been different for him.
There are also the parents in the story and the secrets of violence and addiction each family harbors. As secrets unravel, readers realize what Charlie and Vera have lived through, what has influenced who they are, and the challenges they face. With the element of family history, comes the inevitable question of what make us either repeat or break vicious cycles. Something the reader is left to ponder long after he reads the last page.
Vera Dietz and Charlie’s relationship is complicated, as most friendships are. And the feelings they have for each other cross already blurry lines, which makes Charlie’s death that much more tragic. This novel is deep, it has many layers, it says many things about life, secrets, family, relationships, and society…but this story is also about true love. Not typical love—but, true love. The kind that gets under your skin, exposes your nerves, scrapes against your bones, and hurts like hell. It is the love story of friends who knew each other better than anyone else knew them, who loved each other more than anyone else loved them, who hurt each other despite the pain they already knew each beared. It is bittersweet. It will make you stop every couple of pages and think about friendship, love, family relationships, yourself, the nature of life, and love in its many forms. It really is unlike any book I’ve ever read. And King’s ability to understand human emotion, young adults, and her fine writing make this book absolutely impossible to put down.
Find. Buy. Read. Think.
Here’s me using incomparable in a sentence.
A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an incomparable piece of YA literature.
Behind the scenes tidbit: I hate being on video, but this book inspired me to attempt a vlog entry. The result was, however, not so good. Trust me, I’ve just saved you from great horror. Perhaps another time.
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