PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A.S. King (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2010)

13 Dec

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GENRE: Realistic Fiction

HONORS: Printz Honor Book, 2011, Edgar Award Nominee, 2011

REVIEW: Vera Dietz has ignored a lot in her life. Or at least swept it under the rug, not to deal with it again. When her mother left (her former stripper mother, to be exact) she just moved on. When her best friend (and true love) Charlie Kahn was abused at the hands of his parents, ignored. And when Charlie drops her for a group of delinquent kids, she turns to alcohol to forget. But then Charlie dies. And Vera can’t ignore the fallout—or the reason he died and the crime he’s accused of committing. Now Vera must learn how to pay attention to her life and speak out for the person who can’t speak for himself, despite her conflicting feelings about him and their relationship.

OPINION: A heartbreaking story that touches on abuse, alcoholism, mental health issues, and a bevy of other challenging topics, Please Ignore Vera Dietz manages to evade all the stereotypes of these kinds of issues to create a cohesive mystery that keeps a reader engaged to the end. Told in short chapters from clever points of view (including the dead Charlie and the town’s famous pagoda on a hill), we know from the beginning that Charlie is dead. But along the way we learn how his death affected Vera’s life, including her relationship with her lonely father. And that’s a core theme in the book: loneliness. Each character (even dead Charlie and the pagoda) feel alienated and lost. And they must find ways to not feel ignored and disengaged. Author King shows the price one pays for not reaching out or not becoming involved—in this case, death. Please Ignore Vera Dietz is complex, multi-layered, and meaningful. And worth any reader’s full attention.

IDEAS: A. S. King is a well respected YA author who never shies away from difficult subject matter. A collection of her work, especially read in conjunction with another powerful writer, Laurie Halse Anderson, would be an interesting comparison.

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