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.
I had far too much fun making this book trailer for A.S. King’s The Dust of 100 Dogs (which I reviewed back when I first read it).
I thought about doing it as a full-on stop-motion project, but decided the technical demands would overwhelm the “telling you about the book” aspects. I kind of like this hybrid form, especially with the way I could control all the lighting with a single off-camera flash.
I made the video in iMovie, thinking I might as well learn to use software more people own than something big and fancy like I’m used to. Also, using this kind of accessible software means it’ll be easier for me to do a “make your own book trailer” kind of workshop when I someday am working in a library.
In my super-secret job I’m never allowed to mention for reasons of national security I find myself in the position to recommend books sometimes. The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King is one of these books that made its way across my workspace (can’t tell you if I have a desk or not, as that is a secret) and struck me as interesting. It’s the story of an Irish pirate and her reincarnation as a person in the late twentieth century after being cursed to spend 100 lifetimes as a dog. The cool thing is that Saffron (her 1990 self) retains all the memories of being 100 different dogs and of being Emer the badass pirate. And the great part of Emer’s memories include knowing where her last greatest treasure was buried. So yeah. Awesome.
There were several things that made this book better than the standard YA fare. First: I loved that it was set very specifically in 1990 for the “modern” parts. It made even that feel historical and obviated the need for today’s GPS and communication technology. In general I’m in favour of fiction being set in a specific year instead of “the present,” so there’re my biases.
Second, Saffron’s family is fucked up and [SPOILERS] they remain so right through the end of the book. There’s no redemption of the grasping mother who wants to live through her daughter’s success instead of doing something herself. Her father is a drug addict Vietnam vet and her brother steals from crippled people and burns down their home. You completely see why Saffron would want to go make a life for herself, memories of 300 years rattling around inside her head or not.
The sex in it is not what you might expect from a YA book too. It’s not all Gossip Girled up, there’re a couple of scenes of Emer (the pirate) getting raped and the villain spends a lot of time masturbating while watching the beach and telling the voices in his head how he’s not gay. So yeah, there’s that.
In all, what I liked about it was how it didn’t feel written to a YA formula. And in the back of the copy I read there’s an interview with the author and she says that she didn’t realize it was a YA book until her agent sold it as such. That makes sense to me. It makes it a bit weirder and out of place maybe, but a teen book I have no problem recommending.