★★★★★/★★★★★ Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King.
(There is trigger warning for domestic abuse in this book, as well as alcoholism)
“Is it okay to hate a dead kid? Even if you loved him once? Even if he was my best friend? Is it okay to hate him for being dead?”
This is the story of Vera, who was in love with her best friend Charlie Khan. But he is dead now, and she is keeping a secret that can lead to why he died, so it is left to her to see if she will “clear his name” or remain silent, because he betrayed her.
” But there’s something about telling other people what to ignore that just doesn’t work for me. Especially things we shouldn’t be ignoring.
Kid bullying you at school? Ignore him. Girl passing rumors? Ignore her. Eighth grade teacher pinch your friend’s ass? Ignore it. Sexist geometry teacher says girls shouldn’t go to college because they will only ever pop out babies and get fat? Ignore him. Hear that a girl in my class is being abused by her stepfather and had to go to the clinic? Hear she’s bringing her mother’s pills to school and selling them to pay for it? Ignore, ignore, ignore. Mind your own business. Don’t make waves. Fly under the radar. It’s just one of those things, Vera.”
So do not ignore a book that should not be ignored under any circumstances, and do not ignore any of the issues brought forth in this quote.
Ayaiyai!!! I honestly have been wanting to review this book since the moment I read it, however I have not been able to formulate any thoughts until now. This is a book that does not only deal with growing up, abandonment, how one can feel love and hatred towards the same person, and drinking problems, but very subtly it deals with abuse and discrimination via Charlie and his father’s views on his wife, and the silence of Vera and her father over this abuse.
Vera and Charlie are best friends, well until a few months before he dies, this disparity came to be over a rumour, but Vera still feels for Charlie, and we can tell, so does Charlie. This character-driven-rather-than-romance-driven young adult novel will leave you weeping for a multitude of reasons.
Now how could I describe this book to people still in the fence about it? How about: A book about a kid with issues, but rather than it being solely about the issues, it is about how to deal with them, also, her father is very funny with his parsimonious ways. It is a book that will get under your skin, it will remind you of the friends you have lost over rumours and different opinions, and how no matter how long, their abandonment still haunts you.
- Vera’s character is one that leaves you wanting nothing more than to try to fix her entire life, no matter how hard it might be. She has dealt with her mother abandoning her, and only sending her a card on her birthday with some money. She feels like this is unfair, after all, how can a mother simply disregard her child over man and a new life? Her father has taken care of her ever since, he loves her and she loves him, yet he is the type of man that we would consider his child to be an “entitled millennial” (which we should all hate this view), but at least he is not as discriminatory of our generation as politicians. He believes that in order to survive in the world she must work for what she wants instead of having the belief that certain things should be provided, I mean she works so she can save money to go to university. (yes, In the U.S. you have to pay for higher education) But she takes it all and tries to keep moving forward, no matter how heavy this feels.
- Charlie Khan is the one character we hate at the beginning, but slowly we grow to care for him, and desire he had not died. His guilt leads him to do certain things, such as irresponsible drinking, which leads to his death later on, but also mistreatment of the two women in his life that truly care for him, his mother and Vera. Interpret it as you will, but his character seems the product that often results from a patriarchal sexist society, a society that must be stopped.
My favourite part, and by favourite I mean most poignant, was how Charlie’s mother was beaten up by her husband, and how Charlie feels sorry for not doing anything about it, and even how he verbally abused her himself. The beauty, well not beauty, but sense in this is how Vera and her father, and perhaps other neighbours, ignore this abuse and instead of helping the poor woman they all turn the other cheek. Let me tell you something about turning the other cheek, THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS! One is suppose to turn the other cheek when the bad has been done to you, not when it is being done to others continuously. I am sure that when religious figures spoke of it they meant, forgive those that hurt you, but do not let them hurt you again or anyone else. Domestic abuse is a serious issue, and a lot of reason for it comes from the victim not being able to leave the household, and because others that know of the abuse do nothing about it. I understand most people have no objective code of morality, therefore they view injustices differently, but this is something in which not having a clearly defined set of values should not be ignored.
And that is all I can say after over a year of reading this book for the first time, the main things I remember that I wanted to speak of. Please give this book a read, it is honestly one of the most honest portrayals of grief that I have read in a long while.