Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King [website | twitter]
Publication Date: October 12, 2010
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Target audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: death of a friend, friendships coming to an end, childhood friendship
Format read: Hardback borrowed from my library.
Summary: Vera’s best friend, Charlie, died. He was in an accident and Vera knows some details she should share, but she’s working through the tumultuous relationship they had before his death and the abandonment she felt.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz was my second A.S. King read, and definitely my favorite so far. Her writing is so perfectly woven together and the alternating points of view between Vera (the primary storyteller), her father Ken, Charlie, and the Pagoda carefully revealed tidbits of the story that had me furiously flipping through the pages. Vera and Charlie were childhood best friends, sort of the two oddball kids who live next door to one another and immediately bond. Charlie’s got a sketchy home life that Vera and her family are very aware of, but they choose not to intervene. As they grow older, Vera develops a crush on Charlie and at points, he seems well aware of her affection for him. He begins doing this weird push and pull of leering Vera in by making her think he feels the same way, and then completely ignoring her after something happens.
Before Charlie’s death, their relationship can be described as rocky at best. Vera keeps up with his whereabouts, but their friendship is only an inkling of what it used to be. A.S. King provides details from the past leading up to present day, allowing the reader to really grasp the struggles and challenges these two characters have faced. There’s a bit of mature content as Charlie gets mixed up in some pretty sketchy business that makes Vera a bit worrisome. Often I found myself speculating about what might have happened to Charlie, why he and Vera had a falling out, and I desperately wanted to see Vera become her own woman. She was a bit afraid of becoming her father, who is a recovering alcoholic, and her mother, who was a stripper, and the fear of making either of those same life choices debilitates Vera.
I connected so well with Vera’s emotions over losing a friend. When I was in third grade, one of my friends was killed in an accident over spring break. The news was terrifying, even at such a young age. This boy sat behind me at school and would often play with my hair (well, actually, he would pull it out, but I think he was probably just trying to flirt) and tease me. I remember the day of his funeral like it was yesterday. Vera went through a similar experience with Charlie — she felt that when she went to the funeral, he was going to walk out like it was a big joke and say, “GOTCHA!” I knew there was no way my friend could have passed away. That doesn’t happen to someone so young, right? I slept in my parents bedroom for ages because I struggled so much; I felt haunted by his death. Vera is trying to work out all the details of their friendship gone wrong, but she’s also got this information that could possibly shed some light on the events surrounding his death. That’s a ton for one person to carry around, and Vera certainly feels haunted by Charlie.
I could gush forever about the beauty that is Please Ignore Vera Dietz, but I hope that without revealing too much of the story I can convince you to pick this one up as soon as you can. If you’ve never read one of King’s books, I highly suggest this be your first. I’m very much looking forward to her upcoming book, Reality Boy, to be released on October 22nd.