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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Please Ignore Vera Dietz* by A.S. King- young adult book review
Please Ignore Vera Dietz
by A.S. King
Grades 10-12 336 pages Knopf October 2010 Hardcover    

Prinz Award winner Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King has all of the qualities of an instant classic. The first-person narrator is Vera Dietz, a seventeen-year-old with a wry, ironic humor that cuts through the B.S. that she sees in her life and society to the truth that lies hidden beneath.

Her best friend, Charlie, has died - after turning into someone who acted like one of her worst enemies in ways. Her mother became a stripper to earn money before she finally left for good when Vera was twelve. Her father, an accountant and recovering alcoholic, has raised Vera by himself for five years.

Ken Dietz is determined to break the cycle of alcoholism and enable Vera to live a normal life, to avoid the mistakes that he and his ex-wife made. Unfortunately, sometimes he takes this view to the extreme and doesn’t let Vera live a normal teenager’s life.

All Vera wants is to coast through high school and to be ignored - or at least to not be thought of as a freak or be given false (or any) sympathy. Her father’s protectiveness doesn’t help her quest for normalcy. She knows he loves her, but he tries so hard to protect her and end up with a better life and future than he and her mother that he reins her in too much.

An example of this over-protectiveness is when he starts worrying about her friendship with Charlie Kahn, her best friend since elementary school. Charlie’s life is less than stellar, but he is a very nice guy. His father, on the other hand, beats his mother, and she acts like his doormat.

By the time Charlie’s twelve, he’s smoking a pack a day. To get the money for his smoking habit, he starts selling his used underwear to a neighborhood pervert, who keeps them in baggies. Ken allows Vera to have a sleepover in Charlie’s treehouse when he finishes building it (including a wraparound deck), but then only grudgingly, and after warning Vera that Charlie may act differently toward her as they become teens.

Now Vera’s father makes it clear that Charlie is just not meant for Vera, that they come from different walks of life. They don’t see each other as much, except in school, and Charlie begins to hang out with the Detention Heads and a teenage girl who lies all of the time, and whose word he believes over Vera’s when she tell him that Vera has been telling secrets about him all over the school. Vera wants nothing more than to have their old friendship back as it was.

Rumors that Charlie abused and killed animals swirl after his death. Vera knows the truth behind the rumors, and every once in awhile Charlie shows up - or a thousand two-dimensional versions of Charlie - to try to nudge her into finally telling someone the truth about him.

For some reason that we don’t read about until fairly late into the book, Vera keeps her knowledge to herself. Learning what her reasons are for not revealing what really happened despite Charlie’s persistent efforts is what kept me reading – along with A.J. King’s observations on humanity through the thoughts of Vera, and her keen sense of humor.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a thought-provoking read that lives with you long after finishing it. The author tells the story from several points of view - though Vera’s is ascendant - including her father, Charlie, and even the Pagoda, where she works delivering pizza. Her Dad thinks it’s a good thing for teens to get jobs and earn money. In some ways he’s right, but as Vera points out in her sections of the novel, how is it a good thing to deliver pizzas late at night to sketchy strangers who might lure you into their apartments or houses and do terrible things to you? How is it good to have a bottle of vodka under your seat which you drink after work, and then drive home drunk?

Awesome book - I know I've already said it once, but it bears repeating.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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