There are two things a book can possess that are guaranteed to pull me in:
1. A first-person narrative with a believable voice.
Vera Dietz is the best YA main character I’ve met in a while. She might just be my all-time favorite. She’s independent and sharp and complicated and a genuinely good person. She loses perspective and makes some bad decisions, mostly involving vodka, but underneath it all is a teenage girl who’s dealing with some heavy stuff and trying her best to keep going in spite of it. Her best friend Charlie is dead, and she’s left to cope with her complicated feelings for him, which often seesaw between love and hate, and the secrets she holds about his death.
Plus, she loves animals, she listens to Sam Cooke and Al Green, and she shops for back-to-school clothes at Goodwill. Those little details serve her character so well and make her even more real, and they make me want to hang out with her. She could really use a good friend.
2. Little quirks thrown in that help set the book apart from others I’ve read.
There are several of these:
- Vera’s vocabulary words
- Ken Dietz’ flow charts
- Different character perspectives
- Hilarious chapter titles
- Zen quotes
- Charlie’s napkin writings
All of these details add spice to the story, enhancing an already rich and engaging book.
Other things I loved:
- Ken Dietz, Vera’s father. He’s dealing with some complex emotions too while trying to raise a grieving teenage daughter on his own, and you get to explore his thoughts and struggles in chapters written from his perspective. The way his relationship with Vera develops throughout the book is realistic and super sweet, putting him right up there with Keith Mars in the pantheon of awesome single dads.
- Alternating past and present tense. The book switches between present events and flashbacks that serve as clues to Vera and Charlie’s complicated relationship and everything that led to his death. It seems like it could get confusing, but it never does. Everything flows so well.
- A satisfying ending, despite some loose ends. Things that need to be dealt with are dealt with appropriately, and some details are left open to interpretation, but it leaves you contemplating them rather than feeling annoyed that they’re not resolved. It’s like we are Vera and Ken and the town. Sometimes we don’t have the answers to everything, so we’re left wondering about them instead, imagining how they could have been or how we wish they were. That’s real life, and that’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz.
Bottom line: A.S. King effortlessly combines quirk and realism into a gut-wrenching story about dealing with loss.