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

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…

Planes, Trains, and... Books

It's almost holiday time, and that means traveling for a lot of people. Since I'm leaving this weekend to go visit family for Thanksgiving, I thought I'd make a list of books for you guys that'll be perfect reads while you're flying, waiting in the airport, or hiding from relatives. If you're taking a car trip, check out the audiobook versions. Or, I guess, if you're fortunate enough to be able to read in the car, do that. I can't even look at Instagram without getting carsick.
So, without further ado, here's my list of perfect travel books that are lighthearted, page turning, or perfect escapes. I'll link to my reviews of each of the books so that you can read my full thoughts on each of the books.
Crying Laughing  by Lance Rubin I picked a lot of funny books for this list because they're my favorites to read while traveling. Even when books cross into difficult subject matter, the tone can keep a book perfectly poised as a light read. I lov…

The Reading, Writing, and Me Book Awards 2019

I read so many amazing books this year. Tons of debuts, tons of 2019 arrivals, but also ton of backlist books. I've made a list of my favorite books every year I've had the blog at the end of the year, and I always make the list full of superlatives, giving each book a specific award. I always struggle, though, with my top of 20-whatever list with not being able to honor backlist books that I didn't discover until this year. I want to scream about books I didn't know about when they were brand new, so this year we're going to do things a little differently. This year, for my named awards, I'm going to include both new and backlist books. The only rule is that I had to read them in 2019 or after the 2018 list came out. But I do want to honor this year specifically, so I will be taking ten books from this list and in the next week unveil my Top 10 of 2019. This will allow me to celebrate more books than ever. Carrying on from last year's tradition, I'm k…

The Cheerleaders

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas (372 pages)
Overview: Five years ago, five cheerleaders on the same high school squad died in three separate incidents, but how separate were they? That's what Monica wants to know. Her sister, Jen, was the last teen to die in the tragedy when she died by suicide, but Monica isn't convinced it was simply survivors guilt at play. She's also not convinced that Jack Canning was truly at fault for two girls murders or that the car accident that took the final two girls was really an accident. With an unlikely friend by her side, Monica sets out to dig up the truth about what really happened to those five girls even if it jeopardizes her own life. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 5 I loved Monica's voice. Even though it's told in third person, her character really shined through. Despite making some poor choices and putting herself in dangerous situations, she does strive to do what she thinks will bring truth or justice. Ginny, a girl she connects…

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.…

Heroine

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis (417 pages) To Purchase From Your Local Bookstore (Affiliate Link)
TW: Depiction of opioid addiction 
Overview: Mickey has it all. She's on the best softball team in the county, she has a supportive best friend, and, even though her parents have recently gone through a divorce, they both want to support her. And then she and Carolina get into a car accident on the way home to watch Netflix and eat pizza, a regular Friday night. Mickey's leg is all but torn out of her body, and her hip has to be put together with screws. Carolina, the school's near famous pitcher, nearly destroys her arm. As the girls fight to be ready in time to play their senior softball season, Mickey falls down a dangerous road, slowly upping her intake of pain pills to get through the day and to quicken her pace through physical therapy. Even as she tells herself that it's just for softball, just for her team, just for her parents, as she gets further in and her dependency i…

Long Way Down

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (306 pages) Buy At Your Local Bookstore*
Overview: It's just one elevator ride. Just one elevator ride to the rest of Will's life. Eight floors takes so long when you're headed to kill someone. Even in revenge. Even for justice. Even when your brother was just murdered. It's even longer when every stop brings someone who's left your life back in. There's so much to learn before Will hits the lobby. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 Because of the atmosphere and the point of the story, we don't get super into the characters. They each represent a stop on a horrible cycle. It starts with Buck, Will's older brother, Shawn's, older brother figure. When Buck got killed, Shawn had to avenge his death, which got him killed. He also meets his Uncle Mark, an aspiring filmmaker who's death lead to Will's father's death because of the Rules. Each character doesn't exist to explore themselves or have their own motives- they…

Crying Laughing Review

Crying Laughing by Lance Rubin
Overview: Winnie's life exists for laughs. Her dad is a former wannabe comedian, so he's never quit making jokes around the house. They're super close as he quit his career to stay home with her. She's taken on his love for comedy and has tried stand up, but she's never going back to that again. Now she's in the school's improv troupe, trying her hand at another form of comedy. She forms a closer group of friends and meets new people form it. It's also a good distraction from her dad's increasing health issues as he drops new things and starts falling. As her dad comes to terms with his ALS diagnosis, Winnie doesn't know how to respond to a world that's both full of joy and sadness. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 4 Winnie is super sweet and very interesting. She wants to be funny so badly. Sometimes, she succeeds and is very funny, but sometimes she falls flat on her face. She knows that every joke doesn't work, bu…

Guest Post with Kristy Fairlamb

Today, I'm bringing you another guest post from an author! Kristy Fairlamb stopped by to talk about her top tips for writing and her writing process. Her novel, Lucid, recently came out. If you're interested in learning more or picking it up, check out my Indiebound link! (Affiliate Link).

Eight tips for writing a novel: Based on my vague understanding of the process after winging it and completing three manuscripts.  My first book, Lucid, has just been published, the sequel, Luminous, is mid-edits and the third, a standalone, is at the 2nddraft stage waiting until I’ve finished with the others. 
ONE:JUST WRITE I went to a writing class once and sat beside a lady who told me it was the sixth session she had attended. I asked what she was working on, she said nothing yet, she’s learning first.
I didn’t know how to write when I first started writing. I believe the best learning came after I’d written the first draft when I learnt everything I’d done wrong.
Don’t wait to write until yo…

Dumplin'

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (375 pages)
Overview: Willowdean "Dumplin'" is fat. It's something that she's come to accept about herself even after years of fad diets enforced by her mother and bullying at school. Aunt Lucy certainly helped with her self acceptance, and in cultivating her love of Dolly Parton, but Will is left rudderless after Lucy has a sudden heart attack. To reclaim a bit of confidence she'd lost, Will signs up for the Clover City Pageant. Though she's not the typical beauty queen, Will and her group of friends get to put their own stamp on her mother's beloved pageant. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 I like Willowdean. She lives in the place most of us do on the fine line between insecure and confident. Murphy does a great job building a crew of characters around Willowdean. It was fun to revisit the cast after I'd read Puddin', Murphy's forthcoming companion novel.

Plot: 4 While this book is mainly billed as being about a beaut…