Books, YA Fiction

Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S King

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4 Stars

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.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz is not my usual contemporary read. When I think of contemporary suited to my style, it usually involves lots of romance and drama. This book only had small doses of these subjects, but it did pretty well for something quite unconventional.

The story starts a while after Charlie’s death, when we are introduced to Vera, who is having trouble dealing with her past relationship with Charlie, even if she doesn’t know it. Throughout the book, King describes the present, while flashing back at the right times to properly unwind the mystery. It’s told in 4 viewpoints, but mostly Vera’s with the other 3 popping in at crucial points. The story itself is told with a certain effortlessness that only a few can achieve, in my opinion. Meaning? It doesn’t try too hard to be quirky, philosophical, or smart. It just does its thing casually, which is beautiful in itself. There’s no suger coating, just plain old blunt honesty, and that’s fantastic.

This is not a pretty book. It explores alcoholism, domestic violence, death, and depression in a truthful way. It’s to show that life isn’t clean, and that tragedy can be closer than you think. These aspects actually play a part in what Vera thinks of as her “destiny” and how much of it is pre-determined. They shape Vera’s personality and character in important ways as a child, and later come back to remind her of what she could have done, and what she couldn’t have.

Vera is one of the most genuine, relatable, and poignant characters I’ve had the pleasure to read about. Her voice is humorous, clever, and very matter-of-fact, but there’s a lot underneath her mask. Throughout the story, Vera learns how to look reality in the face and fully understand one’s condition. She struggles immensely, and you often feel sorry for her as she mulls through life trying to be invisible, while facing immense guilt and conflict. Most of her problems are centered around the heartbreak she has witnessed with her friends and family, driving her to break out of her shell, and stay further in simultaneously. I surprisingly understood her more than I had thought so, and I think everyone will be able to connect to her in some way.

Our other characters include Charlie, Ken Dietz, and the Pagoda. Charlie is indeed a screwed-up character, but a lovable screw-up. While he wasn’t as prominent as Vera, King definitely brought him up interestingly throughout the book. Charlie’s character is one that could easily be hated, but King wrote him well enough to bring out all the sympathy. Besides Vera herself, Ken was the highlight of the book for me. His struggle with the past and future was extremely engaging, and I often found him more interesting than Charlie and Vera’s story. I loved his complexity and dryness, while hated him for his neglect and ignorance. It was the best feeling ever. The Pagoda’s POV is something different, obviously. It chimes in from time to time, to complain about the weird crap it witnesses from teens and adults alike in a very cynical manner. While it didn’t come up that often, it slightly reminds me of ourselves commenting on our strange lives from outside our bodies.

Overall, please do not ignore Please Ignore Vera Dietz. It might be different from usual contemporary reads, but it is equally enjoyable. Why isn’t A.S King more heard of?

-Haven

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