Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King
I’m sorry I ignored Vera Dietz for so long, but I finally had the chance to read her story. And loved it. Smart, witty, tragic, redeeming. By turns, of course.
Charlie Kahn had been Vera’s next-door neighbor and best friend for years. But they had a falling out, and now he is dead. And not just dead, but dead in mysterious circumstances.
Vera is having a hard time grieving. Because not long before he died, Charlie betrayed her with the psychopathic liar Jenny Flick. Now the rumors are flying and Vera could clear Charlie’s name, but why should she, after what he did to her?
So Please Ignore Vera Dietz takes us backwards through a suspenseful series of events leading to Charlie’s death. Through an explanation of just how bad his betrayal of Vera was. The Vera who was level-headed, hard-working and saving for college. The Vera who kept Charlie’s family secrets of spousal abuse. The Vera who just wanted to be left alone at school. The Vera who had always secretly loved Charlie as more than a friend.
High school housekeeping: Please Ignore Vera Dietz has general appeal as it is equally a love story, a reflection on friendship, a reflection on child-parent relationships, and a mystery. Both Vera and Charlie are smart, but Charlie has much going against him in his abusive father and rotten family life. He’s kind—until he’s not—but impulsive. After his death, he haunts Vera because she is the only one, besides the evil Jenny Flick, who can clear his name.
Even though Vera’s father is trying his best to raise her on his own after her mother left the family when she was twelve, he is faltering. He is a recovered alcoholic who spends his time on self-improvement with self-help books. Vera constantly points out how cheap he is and how some of his ideas for her are not that beneficial—like having a full-time job delivering pizzas in dangerous neighborhoods while she is still a senior in high school. But Ken means well—and periodically in the novel, he gets to tell his side of the story. As does Charlie, from beyond the grave. Even the pagoda, a local landmark, has the opportunity to set the reader straight once in a while. This makes for interesting point-of-view shifts and info drops.
Charlie’s life and death are at the crux of this story. Nevertheless, the relationship between Vera and her dad, as they finally try to come to terms with their absent wife/mother, is one of the things that sets this novel above many other teen reads.
A. S. King is also the author of Ask the Passengers, which I reviewed recently, and several other YA books. Lovely writing. I’m ready to read another.