Friday, October 22, 2010

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King — 336 pgs

Book CoverWhen Vera Dietz's best friend Charlie dies under mysterious circumstances, she is left bereft, angry and confused. You see, Vera is struggling with her feelings because in the months leading up to Charlie's death, things had changed drastically between them. Charlie had started to hang out with a different and more dangerous crowd and began to engage in some pretty risky behavior. He also began to feel negatively about Vera through no fault of her own. Not only is Vera dealing with the death of Charlie, she's trying to stay ahead in school while working a full time job as a pizza delivery technician and attempting to help her father in dealing with his bottled emotions. It's all just too much for her, and when she begins to see Charlie's ghost, who is trying to get her to uncover the secret of his death, Vera goes a little haywire. Now it's up to Vera to set things right and find a way to deal with her overcrowded and tumultuous life. Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a serious yet charming read that tells the story of a young woman who is trying fix all the broken things in her life while still being true to herself.

I was really excited to get the chance to read this book after reading Lenore's wonderful review. Lenore actually sent me her copy, and while I don't read much in the area of YA fiction, there was just something about this book that intrigued me. It was a pretty fast read and while I didn't love everything about it, it was certainly an interesting book that had me flipping the pages to find out just how the story would end.

Vera is not your typical eighteen year old. She works full time, is doing well in school, and though she can be snarky at times, is a pretty well-adjusted person. Though she's dealing with the death of a friend whom she has conflicting emotions about, Vera doesn't end up in a severe funk and her downward spiral is more gradual and subdued. There are some problems with Vera though, and soon she begins to delve into alcohol abuse and starts to date an older man. Though Vera's voice on the page felt very real and organic, there were times I had trouble connecting with her. I think it was because she handled things in a very different way than I would have. I completely understood her anger towards Charlie, but at times, I felt that she was being unnecessarily stubborn when it came to dealing with the questions surrounding his death. In later sections of the book, Vera is moved to finally seek out answers, and when she does, those answers impact almost everyone around her.

I liked the relationship that Vera had with her father, and could fully relate to it. Vera's father was more than a little overprotective, though he really didn't need to be. At times I felt he could be a little demanding, because it was his idea for Vera to hold down a full time job while going to school, which I felt put a lot of pressure on her. Though father and daughter argued at times, there was an unmistakable bond between them that was further cemented as the story moved forward. I think Vera's father was written in a very realistic way, for there are a lot of parents who feel like the only way to keep their children safe is to begin micromanaging their lives. Vera doesn't tell her father everything, and some of the things he discovers about his daughter shock him and make him angry. For the most part, the parent-child relationship rang true here, and though there was some resentment on Vera's part, she seemed like the kind of person who respected her father underneath it all.

Reading about Charlie made me a little upset. As a child and teenager, he grew up in an abusive household and began to make some unwise decisions early on. His friendship with Vera seemed to be the one thing holding him in orbit, and when that was destroyed, he began to drift off into more and more dangerous situations. We've all had a friend like Charlie: Someone who is basically a good person but whose life is out of control and reckless. I think a lot of Charlie's problems came from his home atmosphere but were exacerbated by the people he chose to make friends with. I couldn't shake the sadness of Charlie's unfortunate situation and kept wishing things could turn out differently for him. Though Vera tried to help him, it wasn't a job she could do on her own and no one else seemed to notice just how much he was suffering.

The narrative of this book was very engaging and the story moved quickly, which is one of the things that I really liked. There were some interesting sections that were narrated by the pavilion where the kids hung out, and also some really cute little flow charts written from the perspective of Vera's dad. Charlie also narrated some sections. This was a clever way of making the narrative seem more rounded and eclectic, and after a few shifts of points of view, I was excited about just what I was going to find and who would be speaking on the next page. The book told a somber tale, but there was a lot of offbeat humor in it as well, which I felt lightened things up considerably.

After reading this book I think I've decided to take more of a chance with YA literature. It was very different from the types of books I usually read, but the story and characters were no less resonant and important and it had the added bonus of being a very creatively crafted book. If you are going to steer young adults towards this book, it may be helpful for me to mention that there are some some references to drugs and sexuality, but nothing that is over the top or explicit. I think this book would be perfect for an audience of age sixteen and older. Reading this book was a very interesting experience. It wasn't a flashy book but one that told a very unique story. Recommended.

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.


bermudaonion said...

I'm supposed to be getting this book, so I'm excited to see that you, (a non YA reader) enjoyed it so much. Being a teen is so much more complicated than it was when I was one, so I'm glad to see there are books out there that deal with issues and not just paranormal stuff.

Marybeth Whalen said...

I just wanted to tell you that I love your comments over at my blog!! They brighten my day every time! Thanks so much for reading and for continuing our SIBA connection. It looks like I am coming back next year-- I hope you are!! :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

As Emma has gotten older, I've delved into YA and I am LOVING it. What an undiscovered genre for me! This book has gotten so much mileage, and it is sort of hard to not listen to Lenore. I actually just ordered another book she raved about "Freak Magnet" from the library.

Jenners said...

I'd begun dabbling in YA books since "discovering" them via book blogging but I've not always found them satisfying. It is a weird genre to me and I'm always struggling to get a handle on it.

This does sound like it is better than average though.

Stephanie said...

What a terrific review! I loved the way you explored the development of Vera's character in depth. Even though you had trouble really connecting with her, it sounds like a novel I'd probably enjoy. I'll keep an eye out for it.

Suko said...

Wonderful review, Zibilee. I hadn't heard much about this book before, but it does sound as if this book is well-written and worth reading. I don't read many YA books either, but I am due to read one before too long.

Marie Cloutier said...

sounds neat. i read very little YA- there's too much for adults that i want to read- but i love hearing about these unusual, idiosyncratic books, too!

Amy said...

I've seen this around but never really had any desire to pick it up. It sounds like something I'll like though eventually! I'm glad that you enjoyed it and that it has convinced you to try some more YA :)

Lenore Appelhans said...

So wonderful to read your thoughts on this one! I really like how you gave all aspects of the novel careful consideration when writing your review. VERA is so much more layered than a lot of YA, so I'd even recommend it to adults who don't usually read YA.

S. Krishna said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one! I've heard so many good things about A.S. King, I really want to read this and Dust of 100 Dogs.

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