Kid bullying you at school? Ignore him. Girl passing rumors? Ignore her. Eighth-grade teacher pinch your friend's ass? Ignore it. Sexist geometry teacher says girls shouldn't go to college because they will only ever pop out babies and get fat? Ignore him. Hear that a girl in your class is being abused by her stepfather and had to go to the clinic? Hear she's bringing her mother's pills to school and selling them to pay for it? Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. Mind your own business. Don't make waves. Fly under the radar.And while you're busy taking that advice and ignoring everything else that's going wrong, Please Ignore Vera Dietz too.
Ever since her best friend Charlie died, Vera's had a hard time dealing with life. Wait, back up. Ever since Charlie ditched Vera for the detentionheads (and THEN died), Vera's had a hard time dealing with life. And her dad, the biggest proponent of the "just ignore it" philosophy, is slow to notice, or at least slow to show Vera that he's noticing. And somehow Vera is stuck living life as a full-time high school student/full-time pizza delivery technician.
Even describing the book is a little confusing and wrapped up in itself. But King pulls it off in a way that only she can, by allowing the pagoda on the hill (yes, a building), Vera's dad, and Vera's dead best friend to all weigh in, along with Vera herself, on Vera's life. Through their joint narration, we get a glimpse of the real Vera (and the real Charlie and the real Vera's Dad). They're all flawed. There are no knights (or supernatural beings of your choice) in shining armor here. They're all just trying to make it through. Even Charlie, who is doing so from beyond the grave.
Though this is part mystery (we know Charlie's dead, but we don't know how or why), part "issue" book (Vera drinks a lot, much to the concern of her recovering alcoholic dad), part dangerous relationship (1-Vera's crush is in his twenties. 2-the flashbacks contain a guy who wants to take grade school Vera and Charlie's pictures. 3-Vera is herself the product of a young high school romance gone wrong), it is mostly a darkly funny book about grief. Everyone, except maybe the pagoda, is grieving someone. It's the way that they each deal with their grief, Vera and Charlie over the loss of each other and their friendship, Vera and her dad over the abandonment by Vera's mom, that makes this such a compelling book. There is plenty of the weird, the funny, the snarkiness, and the romance to keep the book fun, but it is the way that Vera et. al. deal with the more serious aspects that made me care about them.
It sounds all over the place, and I wish I could write a more coherent/convincing review. You'll just have to trust me that Please Ignore Vera Dietz is one that you really should pick up. Either that or check out the multitude of positive reviews already out there. We can't all be wrong.
Book source: Philly Free Library (Though I've finally convinced my director that as an academic library that (1) religiously collects Newberry and Caldecott winners/honors and (2) is serving a school with a Master of Education program that has a high school English track, we should also collect Printz winners/honors, so we have a copy at work too!)
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