- Craig Graziano
The Vera Dietz of Please Ignore Vera Dietz is smart, hard-working, and haunted by the ghost of her best friend. Well...ex-best friend if you want to know the truth.
Vera had a falling out with Charlie, then five months later Charlie has a falling out with life. No one wants to discuss what happened with either situation, but Vera knows the whole story. What's more, Charlie was blamed for a horrible crime. Now Vera must struggle with whether to clear his name or not.
She is struggling with several other issues, too. Vera's relationship with her father is strained. The two have never discussed how Mom walked out years ago. Vera's new interest in vodka coolers and a 23-year-old boyfriend is not sitting right with Dad. He is trying to keep her from making the same mistakes that he did as a teenager, yet there's a difference between loving and overbearing.
And, then there's the fact that Charlie's death might have been prevented. Maybe if Vera had called the police about his abusive father, or if she had gotten him to stop hanging out with the detention-heads—a delinquent group of kids, he would have been all right. Charlie was charming and enigmatic, but he played by his own rules. Maybe there was nothing that Vera could have done.
Five months ago, Charlie disappeared from Vera's life. Now in death, he is everywhere. Ghostly versions of him constantly appear. They swarm her job at the pizza parlor, and she sees them in the girl's bathroom. Charlie is trying to tell her something from beyond the grave, but what?
Author A.S. King has a few tricks up her sleeve to keep things energetic and funny, such as occasionally switching narrators to Vera's dad, Charlie (or The Dead Kid as he calls himself), and even from the Pagoda, a useless structure in town that teenagers drive up to so they can drink, make out, and do much more.
King knows how to take a serious subject like domestic abuse or teenage drinking and inject enough vitality into the situation to both entertain and inform. Her book reminds me of another fine read that deals with serious high school issues, Tales of the Madman Underground.
Vera's got a good head on her shoulders despite the sneak attack of bad luck and hasty decisions. She just needs to accept the truth and share it with others. Please Ignore Vera Dietz is thoughtful, sometimes shocking, and incredibly humane through and through.