Skip to main content

Standout Book: Please Ignore Vera Dietz

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
I've had a really lucky run of finding amazing books lately! This one was no exception. While the description was intriguing enough to get on my list, I wasn't entirely sold. Actually, I only picked it up because it was the first one on my list I spotted at the library, but I'm glad I found it!

Overview: This is the story of Vera Dietz and her friendship with next door neighbor Charlie. That's really what it is about. Of course the back talks about Vera working to clear Charlie's name after some unnamed disaster that subsequently ruined his reputation and caused his death. This, much like I said about To All The Boys I've Loved Before, is a piece of the puzzle, but in my opinion not the main point in the grand scheme of things. Instead, it is more about the expansion and contraction between the friendship of a boy and a girl over time. Told both in the present and the past, starting at age 11, we see it grow and change until the boy dies in unexpected ways. This makes a much better story than the back originally describes.

Characters: The characters were all incredibly believable and drove the plot giving it a complexity that elevated it to the next level. The two main characters are Vera and Charlie. They are both determined to escape their destiny of becoming their parents which drives most of the actions.  There are also chapters written from the point of view of Mr. Dietz (Vera's father) and the pagoda (an interesting personification of an inanimate object).
Vera is the primary main character, and the focal point of the story. Her mother is an ex-stripper who ran away with a doctor to Vegas when she was twelve. Her father was an alcoholic. She spends her high school career trying to fly under the radar so people don't find out about her mother's embracing past. The only one who knows is Charlie. She keeps her grades perfect and keeps a full time job (at the demand of her father who is also set on doing everything in his power to stop the past). Vera gets frustrated by her father's lack of faith in her despite never giving him ammunition to believe otherwise. Her and her father's relationship is a major focal point almost as much as her relationship with Charlie. Even though she occasionally indulges in her known vices (the occasional vodka cooler and a bit of flirtation with an older guy at the pizza shop), Vera knows what is right and always finds the safe balance. By the same token, it was what made her want to save Charlie from his downward spiral.
Charlie, even though he is dead through the whole book, is a well developed and understandable character. His father abuses his wife and there is always the assumption that no matter what, Charlie will end up that way too. Despite his best attempts to fight destiny, he becomes addicted to cigarettes at eleven and starts to get involved with sketchy people. Eventually the divide between Vera and him grows till he falls completely into the wrong crowd that exacerbates all of his bad tendencies till it became fatal. Through effective flashbacks, we see Charlie start to break down starting from age eleven till his death at age eighteen. He becomes a highly effective character, and we get the chance to understand his actions through the slow downward spiral.
The supporting cast is also remarkable. Vera's father is a self-help book addict who still grapples with his wife leaving him and is sometimes misguided in his attempts to keep Vera from all the mistakes he made. Jenny Flick, the bad girl leader is also a plausible character who furthers the plot perfectly. Then there's James, the caring, nice coworker who has good intentions but unfortunately doesn't appear this way from the outside. The other characters peppered through the novel each represent their own problems in society in an honest, real way, but it does not come off as sets of stereotypes.

Plot: The story is split between antidotes from the past, Vera's current perspective, and small interjections from other characters occasionally. We follow the current time (the aftermath) and in each section, a year from the past starting at eleven and heading toward the present. This storytelling and almost two intersecting plots give the ending so much more of an impact. We see Vera and her dad coping with their mother leaving as well as Vera and Charlie growing close and being split apart. The ending is just beautiful and entirely satisfying to the story.

Writing: A.S. King managed to take nearly every element that tanks a story and combine them beautifully and effectively to propel the story forward. She used multiple perspectives (Vera's dad, Vera, "The Dead Kid", and even the pagoda {a favorite hangout spot in the tiny town}) to propel the story forward. And all of the prospectives work! (Even the personification of an inanimate object which I thought I would hate for the pure ridiculousness of it!) Also, King writes the story in two different timelines almost. There are so many flashbacks that you have one narrative creeping forward in the present and one in the past telling Vera and Charlie's stories from age eleven on. Even with all of these storytelling elements and what might be jarring switches, I never got lost, confused, or annoyed, and it made for a beautiful final product. Finally, one of her central characters was dead! Of course, this is not the first book I've read that has done this. But it is the first that did it and used the state of the character as an asset. Most of the time, readers are expected to feel something for characters who died before the book even started through dry flashbacks and memories. You get the basic personalities of the characters, but they are always flat. I haven't ever brought myself to particularly care for any of these dead characters before, and, as a result, I start to care less for the living ones too. Not here at all. King beautifully shows the downward spiral and the slow deterioration through her flashbacks beautifully that made the ending moving. She made me care about a character that I knew wouldn't make it through. And that is all the more impressive. Also, she is able to use the character of Charlie and his coping with his set  destiny to contrast with how Vera fights her "set destiny."

So, in conclusion, this was a beautiful, raw, honest, and compelling novel that deserves five stars for pulling together and pulling off the amazing writing feat of combining all those elements!
-Lauren

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What If It's Us

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (448 pages)
Overview: Ben and Arthur meet at the post office during a flashmob. Well, Arthur followed Ben into the post office because he thought he was and, and, just as they started talking, in true form with Arthur's New York fantasy, a flash mob erupted. When the boys and split up, Arthur loses his chance at connecting with Ben, but when he can't stop thinking about him, he explores ways to reconnect even in a city of a million empty faces like New York. Even if they can find each other, with Arthur going back to Georgia at the end of the summer, will it even be worth it? Overall: 4/5

Characters: 4.5 I'm not sure what to say about the characters. I liked them enough, but I didn't feel any real attachment to any of them. I liked the cast of friends, but they all lacked a certain weight that would give them a stronger sense of reality. My favorite relationship in the book was the friendship between Dylan and Ben.…

Top Reads of 2018

This year's best of 2018 list has tons of new categories to fit all of the amazing books I read this year. I've had the chance to read so many advanced books and recent releases, so most of what I read were books that came out in 2018. I mostly choose contemporary, so I've started with my favorite debut as well as the best books in other genres I've ventured into. After that, I have smaller categories in the contemporary genre. I hope you find new books to love and give to your friends and family for the holidays. If you're interested in learning more about the books on the list, click their titles to go to my reviews. Let me know if these are some of your favorites in the comments, and tell me your favorite books!
Best In Genre Top Debut
Nothing Left To Burn by Heather Ezell Nothing Left To Burn gave me the craziest book hangover. I was so immersed in the story, and I couldn't stop reading to do anything that I actually needed to be doing. There is a toxic relat…

A Summer of YA

I thought that I would make a bonus post for all of you to celebrate summer finally starting to arrive! I've compiled a list of books that I've read this year and last that either take place in the summer or give me total summer vibes. A lot of these books are ones that I think should get a lot more love. Let me know in the comments what books make you instantly think of summer! I've linked reviews to all of these books in the titles below.




Going Off Script This is the book I'm reviewing tomorrow! I read it last weekend in nearly a single day because it is such a refreshing, quick read. While I don't think it takes place in the summer and it focuses on a TV internship, it's set in LA which serves up eternal summer vibes.
The Way You Make Me Feel This is one of the ultimate books on my summer playlist. As a punishment for a school prank, Clara has to spend the summer working with her nemesis in her father's food truck. With mouthwatering Korean-Brazilian food,…

Going Off Script Review

Going Off Script by Jen Wilde (292 pages)
Overview: Bex has dreams of being a show runner, but, first, she has to rise through the ranks of the writers' room. Luckily, she's scored an internship with one of her favorite TV shows, Silver Falls. Unfortunately, the LA dreams she's fought so hard to get aren't as fun as she imagined. The show runner is horrible and even steals a script that Bex wrote. In an environment that has far too many echoes of high school for Bex's taste, she has to figure out how to make the most of her situation. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 4 I really like Bex. She's made a major life change from living in Washington state and working at Sonic with her mother to help support her family. Living with her cousin makes the transition slightly better, but her new life feels both too different and too familiar. Bex is also dealing with understanding her sexuality.  She's nervous about telling her friends and family, even though she knows they'…

Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett (417 pages)
Overview: Glamping should not include getting stranded in the middle of the woods with your ex-best friend. But life doesn't always go as it's supposed to. When Zorie agrees to go with her friend Regan and her crew on a summer camping trip, she doesn't know Lennon will be there, and she's certainly not expecting the group to abandon the two of them in the middle of the California wilderness, forced to complete a multi day track back to civilization. It turns out, though, that an adventure in the woods might be just what they need. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 5 I thought that all of the characters, including the adults, were given dimension. I loved the parental dynamic between Lennon and his moms as well as Zorie's relationship with her step mom who never considered Zorie less than her own daughter.
Lennon and Zorie are also awesome characters. Zorie has to battle her intense anxiety and relinquish control while she's stuck in…

This Is Not a Test

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers (326 pages)
Overview: Sloane wanted to end her life. And then the apocalypse came. Her focus suddenly turns to survival because that's what she's supposed to do. She finds a group of other teens from her school, and they survive in the infected city for seven days before finding shelter in the high school. With all the doors barricaded and the necessities provided, suddenly, there's room to think, reflect, and feel again, and their safe haven quickly turns into a cage. Overall: 5 

Characters: 5 This cast has blown me away. Courtney Summers in general has done that with every aspect of the novel, but the characters are all so detailed and unique and flawed and emotional and broken. It makes for the perfect novel.
Sloane has recently had her sister leave without her, even though the plan was for them to escape their abusive father together. Without Lily, she feels her life has no point, but when it's seriously threatened, something co…

The Lying Woods

The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston (327 pages)
Overview: Owen's biggest concern in life is dodging Jack's next prank until he finds out his father has disappeared with the entire company's funds. He is forced to return to Lake Crane in shame with his mother and live in his aunt's house. All of their possessions are seized. Everyone gives Owen dirty looks even though he just found out about his father's crimes. An entire town's been robbed, and the weight is on Owen and his mom's shoulders. Owen gets a job at the pecan orchard that Detective Hill directs him to, and he finds the owner, Gus. As he keeps working there, he starts to learn about their parent's romance on the orchard when they were his age... but the story doesn't amount to exactly what it seems. Overall: 4

Characters: 4 Owen starts off as kind of a jerk, but I can't really blame him. He feels as screwed over as the people in town who lost their retirement and life savings. He's also …

Into YA with Deborah Maroulis

I got to chat with Deborah about her new book! She has a lot of interesting and important comments about the stories she tells in her new book! 

1. Within and Without takes place on a vineyard which is a setting that I’ve never encountered before. What made you decide to set the story there? I decided to set Wren’s story on a vineyard for two reasons. One, Granny’s farmhouse, where she’s living since her parents’ divorce, is based on my own mom’s house. She didn’t have vineyards on her property, though. She had walnut trees. But her home is surrounded by family-owned vineyards who either make their own wine or sell their harvests to the larger wine companies in Napa, so I thought I’d combine a real house with fictionalized agriculture.   The second reason is more symbolic. Wren’s character arc mimics the life cycle of a grape vine, and I thought it would be fitting to have her in a place where the parallels would be easier to draw. (It’s the English teacher in me…gotta love symbolism!)
2.…

Hot Dog Girl Review

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan (April 30) 
To Purchase From Your Indie Bookstore*
Overview: Elouise has her summer before senior year (because the summer before senior year is far superior to the summer after), but then everything starts falling apart. Nick, the guy she likes, is still dating princess Jessa. She's the dancing hot dog for the second year in a row at the Magic Castle, the small town amusement park where she works. And then the park announces that it's closing, and Elouise is at a loss. With scheme after scheme, she attempts to save this summer and the ones to come. Overall: 4 

Characters: 5 I like Elouise. She's happy and upbeat, but also a little scattered and unsure. She just kind of traipses from one idea to the next and it all kinda works out with enough finagling. I immediately identified with her because I too have "caramel" hair that won't hold dye, and I burn horribly too. While she's a bit flighty, she's definitely lovable.
Seely&…

The Art of Breaking Things

The Art of Breaking Things by Laura Sibson (June 18)
Overview: Skye was twelve when she was molested by her mother's boyfriend on a camping trip. When she tried to tell her mom that night, her mom brushed her off and was too drunk to remember what happened to Skye. Now a senior in high school, she's lived with the fear and shame for a while, believing that her mother doesn't believe her. She's tried to cope with alcohol, drugs, and art, and she's starting to heal when Dan comes back into their lives. Now with her younger sister Emma turning twelve, Skye is filled with fear, panic, and flashbacks as her family starts to fall apart again. She has to decide if and how she wants to speak out to stop her mother from marrying her abuser. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 Skye is an amazing character. She's so strong, but she feels like she has to be. Her secret eats her alive, and she does whatever she can to drown it with drugs or emotional outbursts. She's trying to cope …