Thursday, August 18, 2011
Please Don't Ignore Vera Dietz
What happens when we put our heads down and ignore all the bad things around us? Do they just go away, or do they come back to haunt us? Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King is a phenomenal story that shows the life of an average girl who struggled to ignore what was happening around her and prayed everyone ignored her very existence. Fortunately and unfortunately, that was impossible.
Vera has been friends with Charlie since they were in elementary school. They have suffered through his abusive father, her mother leaving when she was 12, and deep dark secrets they only shared with one another. But when Charlie starts hanging out with a bad group of kids, drugs ad alcohol aren't the only changes to his life. The girl he starts dating, Jenny, is manipulative, a liar, and hates Vera's relationship with Charlie. When she tells Charlie things she swears Vera has been spreading around school about Charlie, he believes Jenny instead of Vera, who would never say such things. He finally joins the rank of the others and starts torturing Vera in every way possible, from throwing dog poo at her to telling the school how her mother was a stripper when Vera was a baby. Charlie's betrayal is more than even when her mother abandoned her.
Now, almost a year later, Charlie is dead and blamed of a heinous crime. Vera deals with her emotionally unavailable father and works a full time job in addition to going to school, just like he tells her to do. Of course, the vodka bottle beneath her car seat she uses just to get through the day and numb the pain is nothing her father would understand- especially since he has always warned her about their "alcoholic genes" they must be careful of. As Vera's destructive behavior continues, her father is desperate to save her, even if it means accepting the pain he still suffers and would prefer to ignore. What he doesn't expect to uncover is the truth behind Charlie's death.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a story you simply cannot ignore. Told in a series of flashbacks to the times when Vera and Charlie were young as well as snapshots of Vera's life now, it slowly gives you snapshots that add up together into a story you can't ignore. The story isn't revealed immediately, and you truly don't know everything until the very end, but you won't want to stop until you find out exactly what happened. It is one of those stories that pulls you into the whirlwind and won't let you go until it spits you out all disheveled and discombobulated.
The story has some mature content and language, but it is handled beautifully and in a way that opens up so many important discussions between you and the reader. Charlie starts selling his underwear to a perv he met on the street, but when things escalate, he doesn't know what to do. Vera knows her family's history, but can't break out of her inevitable future. Perhaps she feels she deserves to suffer like her whole family did because they had her so young. It also raises the question of when you should step in and do something when you know your neighbor is terrorizing and beating his wife and child. At what point do we need to become involved. Although this book has some mature language and content, it is just too important to censor from kids. I would suggest this story for mature middle school students through high school students, but be prepared to talk about it. Not only will your student want to talk about it, you will need to talk about it too.