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Review: Please Ignore Vera Dietz

February 3, 2011

Finally getting around to writing my review for the 2011 Printz Honor book Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King.

 

 

If you hadn’t heard, it has also been nominated for a 2011 Edgar Award.  So you sort of know going into this that this book is pretty spectacular.

 

Quick summary: Vera secretly loves Charlie, her best friend.  Charlie dies in mysterious circumstances, Vera knows more than she lets on but she isn’t talking and doesn’t plan on it.

 

One of the things i really liked about this book is that it is a mystery that doesn’t seem like a mystery.  i’m not the type of person who can go into a bookstore and walk straight to the mystery section and devour every book.  This kind of mystery reminded me more of some of the tv shows i like, Law and Order: CI (with Vincent Dononfrio) where there is a mystery but you sort of get so wrapped up in the story and the characters that it no longer seems to be what one might stereotypically think of when they say mystery. . . does that even begin to make sense?

 

The characters are what make this book for me.  Vera is guarded for so many reasons and has all these layers that you don’t necessarily see coming but when they are revealed they make so much sense and Vera becomes more and more three dimensional in your head.  i related in a lot of ways to Vera so as the book went on and Vera felt emotions i found myself feeling them too.  Ken, Vera’s dad is one of my favorite characters.  His flowcharts are both amusing and a little heartbreaking.  He tries so hard at so much and he makes mistakes. . . sometimes he realizes it and sometimes he doesn’t.  He loves Vera so much but he too has so many layers that he is sort of lost and tangled in that sometimes he can’t see as clearly as he would like or as Vera needs him to.

 

The nice and sort of strange thing is that when i was reading this book it sort of felt like i was reading a movie i had seen. . . i don’t quite know how to explain this.  The story was completely fresh and new but the characters were just so well developed that i felt like i knew them and was watching them or could have watched them at some point because i could picture them so clearly in my head.  King doesn’t let the minor characters go either, even if they speak only once or twice you know who that character is, you can picture what they might be wearing and what they might do in their own life later that day.

 

Another thing i really appreciated is the humor.  There are a lot of really funny parts.  However, A.S. King does NOT use them as a way to draw away from the fact that there is a lot of darkness in the book.  It isn’t overdone, it isn’t unnatural.  But there are times that are sort of like when you’re really upset about something and something makes you laugh and you have that conflicted feeling that you’re happy and sad all at once.  It’s pretty awesome to read a book where someone can capture that so perfectly.

 

i am also a really big fan of short chapters and in this case the changing viewpoints that come with the chapters.  It sort of forces you out of whatever place you are in so you can see something else.  Sort of like this:  if you were standing really close to something and you just saw a huge blue wall but then all of the sudden you are in a different place further back and you can see that it isn’t a wall it’s actually a cube, then a different spot even further back and it’s a cube that is surrounded by dinosaur sculptures.  Sometimes when you get so focused on one character it’s hard to see the rest of the story- in some books this isn’t a problem.  But in others it’s important to really be able to examine all sides of the cube and see what is around it.  Once again i’m not sure i’m making sense but i’m throwing it out there.

 

One last thing. . . i love pickles.  i have since i was little- one of my favorite gifts i’ve ever received was a pair of pickle pajama pants.  So this book scores major major points for making pickles even more special.

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