Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.
So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?
Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.
Charlie Khan is dead. He was Vera’s best friend up until a few months before his death, and she’s always loved him (until she hated him, of course). There is mystery surrounding Charlie’s death that Vera can clear up. But she doesn’t. Not right away. She’s angry and hurt, and Charlie will remain dead regardless. Vera’s mother left when she was twelve, and her father is a recovering alcoholic. Vera herself keeps vodka until the seat of her car. She’s a witty, ironic, cynical kid, and I loved her. She has a tiny romance with a man five years older than her at the pizza place where she works, but most of the book is about Charlie. Charlie through Vera’s eyes. The chapters are short and jump around in time (once we get a chapter from the nearby pagoda’s point of view), but that made it even more readable to me. We get pieces of Charlie’s life and death between Vera dealing with her everyday life, and the details come in fits and starts. That’s okay though, because Vera is such an interesting character. Being in her head was a cynical girl’s dream. (And of course she has ideas I don’t agree with, and the word “slutty” pops up now and then, but Vera has her reasons and I loved her.) This is the story of how Vera copes with the sudden death of her best friend.
Charlie has secrets, and not just open secrets, like his father’s abuse of his mother. Charlie leaves Vera in their treehouse for hours. Charlie writes things down and eats them. Charlie throws his underwear away. He’s an engima, and an annoying one, at that. Vera’s parents tell her to “just ignore” what happens at Charlie’s house, and it’s heartbreaking. Apathy is a killer, but some of the things they say aren’t wrong. Sometimes reporting makes things worse. That doesn’t mean we get to check out though. Vera’s learning this. We also get to see the inside of Vera’s father’s head, and it’s interesting, because he was an alcoholic by middle-school, and I really think work helped bring him out of it, which is why he pushes for Vera to work so hard. He’s afraid she’ll end up like him, while Vera’s afraid she’ll end up like her mother, a pregnant seventeen-year-old or a young mother forced to work as an exotic dancer. Vera has a lot of gender-related issues, mostly stemming from her father’s insistence that she “avoid her destiny.”
I liked this one despite its more “racy” or controversial moments, because Vera was so straightforward, but the rest of the novel was not. Charlie was complicated (and did some really bad things), what happened to him was complicated, and getting the story out of Vera was a path full of twists and turns. It showcases the pros and cons of a small town and all the implies, especially having strangers know your (or your mother’s) private business. I liked Vera’s father, who obviously loves her but is obviously out of his depth with a teenage daughter and as a single parent in general. He has a lot of pain in his past. While some of the other secondary characters fell kind of flat (James, for example), I really liked being in Vera’s head and learning more about her relationship with her parents and more about Charlie. This book is about so much more than Charlie’s death. It’s about Vera learning to define herself in ways other than by her parents and their goals/dreams. It’s about Vera forgiving Charlie, and learning how to forgive in general. I really highly recommend this one.