Please Ignore Vera Dietz/A.S. King: Reflections

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Here I am, reading Please Ignore Vera Dietz while sitting on a bench at the University of Pennsylvania campus waiting to meet with a friend.  This was just after I could be seen on the incoming train, clutching the iPad2-enabled book to my chest.  Which is just after I tore myself from the couch, where I could found getting even more fat while touching my eager fingertip to the gadget's glass in breathless admiration of A.S. King's poignantly odd, big-hearted, exceedingly jazzily written prose.  Which is the morning after the late evening when I downloaded the book in the first place, having been incapable of finishing the last five books I'd started (despair had set in; it had deepened).  I fell asleep with my iPad2 beside me.  I woke up in the dark, tiptoed it downstairs, and, well, you know the rest.

You're getting this, right?  Please Ignore Vera Dietz, a YA novel with decidedly adult content and thoroughly inimitable flare reawakened the reader in one Beth Kephart.  You can go to A.S. King's own website to find out about the book's many honors (Printz nominee, anyone?). You can read a description anywhere (though no two descriptions will sound alike, because there's a heck of a lot going on in this book about a pizza delivery technician and her parsimonious dad and her best friend, Charlie, who is dead on the first page of the book, but dead best friends do tend to linger, oh, and animals are involved, and Piggy of Lord of the Flies, and also a bunch of moral questions in a not entirely moral world, and did I mention that a Pagoda speaks?).

All I want to say is that it is darned fine thing to find a writer writing.  Not a writer telling a story, mind you, but a writer writing one.  Dealing so brilliantly with the whole flashback thing, while drawing a story forward.  Building real characters—messy, swearing, striving, searching, self-disappointed, self healing. Unafraid of big words, crafty with the small ones. 

I'm going to give you a taste of the action:

Charlie and I still shared a seat on the bus. We'd press our earbuds into our ears and read or daydream or, in Charlie's case, occasionally scribble things on tissues and napkins and then eat them.  On weekends, we'd see each other sometimes, but Charlie was busy between hunting trips with his father and dates. Girls swarmed him that year, impressed by his windswept attitude, his over-the-eyes haircut, and his Goodwill dress sense.  By the time summer came, I think he'd had about four different girlfriends, but he kept them totally secret, and if I asked, he would deny it, as if having girlfriends wasn't cool.
All right, and I just have to share this line, from near the end of the book, when Vera, our un-ignorable heroine says this:  "I love Vocab. It's like spelunking in a cave you've been in your whole life and discovering a thousand new tunnels."

Come on.  You love that, right? 

There's hard stuff in this book.  These kids don't have it easy.  Some seamy bad people press in.  But Vera Dietz, so perfectly imperfect, learns what it means to stand up to it all.  And I cried a few tears at the end.


bermudaonion said...

Oh, how I loved this book and Vera!

Julia said...

This book was one of the better young adult books that I have read. I too loved the speaking pagoda and the treehouse, which always seemed to be alive.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

This has been on my list for ages. Must get to it!

Nise' said...

I loved this book as well and patiently await her next one.

Beth F said...

Put me firmly on the love list too.

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