Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S. King

It is no coincidence that the promotional blurb on the cover of A.S. King's darkly funny novel Please Ignore Vera Dietz was written by Crank author Ellen Hopkins—King's story doesn't actually revel in its grim subject matter the way Hopkins's books do, but it's aiming squarely for the same audience.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz opens with a funeral. High school senior Vera's former best friend Charlie has recently died of alcohol poisoning, and Vera—already struggling to balance school and her full-time pizza delivery job—is being haunted by his ghost. Overwhelmed by her memories of Charlie, her difficult relationship with her loving but perpetually worried father, and the knowledge that she could potentially clear Charlie's name in the crime he was accused of committing the night he died, Vera's coping mechanisms begin to drift into dangerous territory.

The best thing about Please Ignore Vera Dietz is King's heroine. Vera spends most of the story feeling like she's in over her head, but remains fundamentally sensible enough that her eventual redemption feels plausible and fairly won. I enjoyed the way King structured the novel, too, periodically switching the story's perspective from Vera to Charlie (“A Brief Word from the Dead Kid”) to Vera's father (whose parental advice comes in graph form: i.e., “Ken Dietz's Avoiding Your Destiny Flow Chart”) to the Pagoda, a local landmark that played a big role in Vera's childhood (“Do you have any idea how old watching idiot kids drink and do drugs up here on the rocks is getting?”).

I was less impressed by the novel's overabundance of "edgy" subplots, which Please Ignore Vera Dietz has coming out of its ears. Creepers lurking in the woods, abusive parents, psychotic classmates, alcohol and drug abuse—you name it, Vera and Charlie experienced it. By the story's third disturbing secret (and with many more to go), the impact was lost, and by the end of the novel I was accepting a scene that literally involved dead kittens without batting an eyelash. I still found the novel plenty readable, but I'm hoping the editors of her future books can convince King to dial her appetite for dramatic revelations way, way down.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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