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Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King

“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.” (p. 44)

Vera Dietz and Charlie Kahn have been best friends since they were four years old.  In a world where mothers left their families and husbands beat their wives, Vera and Charlie were there for each other, were solid for each other, kept each others secrets.  Until Charlie turned his back on Vera.  And then died.

Now Vera is facing the fallout from Charlie’s death.  She knows more than she’s letting on, but in order to tell the truth, she must first come to terms with everything that’s happened between her and Charlie-good and bad.  Even though she’s been told to ignore the ugly things in the world for most of her life, Vera knows that ignorance doesn’t make them go away.  It just makes you feel like a chump for not doing anything to help.

I absolutely loved this book.  From the first page, I was drawn into Vera’s story.  Her voice is vivid and full of personality; she’s quirky and smart and funny.  She’s also been hurt very deeply by the people who were supposed to love her.  Watching her experience that cruelty was literally heartbreaking.  Several times I found myself clutching my chest, fighting back tears for this girl.  But don’t think Vera’s some helpless damsel-in-distress; she’s tough in ways she shouldn’t have to be.

Vera tells us her story in alternating perspectives:  present and “history” – glimpses into her relationship with Charlie as they grew up.  There are also some interjections from “the dead kid”, AKA Charlie, Vera’s dad, and the Pagoda.  Although the sections told from Charlie’s and the Pagoda’s perspectives add a bit of fantastic realism to the story, they weren’t distracting or jarring as you might expect. 

Please Ignore Vera Dietz is as much about death and loss as it is about love and life.  It’s about letting go of the past so you can embrace your future.  It’s a complex and nuanced exploration about the complicated nature of love, whether it’s romantic or familial.  I think Vera put it best when she said:

“True love includes equal parts good and bad, but true love sticks around and doesn’t run off to Vegas with a podiatrist.” (p. 97)

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King
Young Adult | 336 pages | October 2010 | Knopf Books for Young Readers | 0375865861 | Library copy

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Printz Honor Award Winner, Young Adult Literature