"I'm sorry, but I don't get it. If we're supposed to ignore everything that's wrong with our lives, then I can't see how we'll ever make things right."
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King is the best YA novel that I have read in a long, long time. I hadn't heard anything about this book before picking it up, and I honestly can't remember buying it. I randomly picked it up off of my "books to be read" shelf (this is actually several shelves packed to the gills... the life of a reader...) and dove in. By the next day, I was finished. I loved the protagonist, Vera, immediately. Her sass and vulnerability make her endearing, and I couldn't wait to find out what happened to her and her best friend Charlie, who has recently passed away.
Vera deals with real problems in a way that is easy to relate to. Not once does it sound preachy or like an after school special. Vera is dealing with an absent mother, a distant father, a dead best friend, alcoholism, an older love interest, a full time job that can put her in potentially dangerous situations, bullies... and she's still in high school. Despite this heavy load, Vera never comes off as whiny. She endures each of these issues like a normal teenage girl- imperfectly. She is a protagonist that I would want young girls to read about and fall in love with. Is she perfect? Absolutely not. But she doesn't ignore her problems and she comes to sensible conclusions because she works through her feelings. In reality, what Vera does might be harder than all of the physical feats that dystopian heroines like Katsniss and Tris overcome. The internal struggle the Vera quietly faces shows true strength of character.
The most gripping part of the story is the mystery involving Charlie. As the book opens, Vera tells us that her best friend of many years has recently died. The bigger issue for Vera, however, is that she felt like she lost her best friend months before her death. To her, this is far worse than the death itself. Put yourself in her shoes- someone that you love deeply dies while you are in the midst of a fight that not only separates you, but results in the two of you being mean to one another. The lack of closure, the questions of "what if I had been there," the mixed feelings- sadness, anger, fear... Vera is dealing with all of these. Add to this that Charlie is appearing to her, begging her to clear his name. Clear his name from what? The reader will find out eventually through a series of flashbacks.
I feel certain that anyone will relate to Vera for one reason or another- she has so many issues to work through, that you are bound to have something in common with her. Her model of dealing with her problems to come to a resolution that is real, not perfect, is something that I really enjoyed reading about.
Food for thought... is there a book that you didn't expect to like but you ended up loving? What was it?