Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a book by A.S. King about a pizza-delivering high-school senior named Vera whose best friend Charlie is dead.
The story jumps around in time covering the nine months after he died along with their lives up till then. We learn about how they became friends and how their friendship fell apart, and about saying something when something is wrong. The whole idea of ignoring things and not getting involved to maintain a peaceful zen life gets a pretty good criticism in this book.
What I loved about the book was the shifting in time and perspective. We all know right from the beginning that Charlie dies, but we don’t exactly know how. It’s a good hook and as we learn more about them we want to know how it came to be this way. King did something similar in The Dust of 100 Dogs, where the main character dies in the prologue and the rest of the book is about getting us back to that point. The book is mostly told from Vera’s perspective but there are bits tossed in from her dad’s point of view (he’s a recovered alcoholic whose wife left and changed the spelling of her name so he writes about her as
CindySindy, which is kind of heartbreaking), and from the dead boy’s point of view, and from the big pagoda monument that sits on the hill above their town. It’s really well done.
The villains are appropriately high-school insane. I’m very glad I never encountered such a vindictive horrible liar as Jenny Flick, but I completely believe she exists (maybe she got a bit moustache-twirly at the very end, but I wouldn’t put her actions past her).
So yes, a very good YA book.
Monsters of Men is the concluding book in the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. This trilogy was less like three separate books than one story separated into three volumes, which is part of why I preferred this book to the middle book. It actually had an ending.
[Spoilers to follow.]
In this concluding section Todd and Viola have to try and unite humanity against the overwhelming opposition of the aliens they thought they’d killed in the war (before Todd was born). They’re trying to create a peace and Todd is becoming more like the Mayor because he’s learning so much. There’s a lot of Star Wars-esque father issues going on. Viola is hiding her distrust of the new Todd and they’re all growing up and she lets the war get personal while she’s trying to broker a peace. It’s all very dramatic, with one excellent return of a character from early on in the story that I didn’t see coming. And it ends really well.
There’s a new viewpoint character, one of the aliens, which I quite enjoyed. One of the issues with the series is that the first book is told completely from Todd’s perspective, and Viola doesn’t even have a voice for a good chunk of it. In the second book she becomes a viewpoint character. But if a young woman starts the first book, there’s not a lot for her right off the hop. And explaining that Viola is there and everything Todd thinks at first is wrong kind of defeats the purpose of how that book is set up. I don’t know if it’s a huge problem, but the fact that it takes so long to get a kickass female protagonist might turn off some female readers. Just a caution.