Hello everyone! My name is Ashley Lysiak and I’m currently a graduate student in the Literacy Education program at Nazareth. I am an English teacher who works with high school students in Spencerport and I love YA novels; I am constantly on the lookout for new books that teens would enjoy. That’s why the Teen Book Festival is my paradise! There’s tons of great, quality literature written by fascinating people.
One of those fascinating people is award-winning author A.S. King. I decided to read A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz (a 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book) after meeting her in person at the TBF Read-a-Thon this year. She spoke to a small group of fans and read a few select passages from her book; I was instantly captivated. Ms. King is clever, witty, and honest and that is exactly how she writes in all of her novels.
With her writing, King has the ability to draw you in and get you lost in the story. She opens her novel with the line: “Before I died, I hid my secrets in the Master Oak.” What?! Immediately an avalanche of questions cascaded into my mind: Who’s dead? What kind of secrets need to be hidden like this? What’s the significance of the Master Oak? Who’s telling the story? A lot is set up for the reader just in that opening line and I was instantly hooked.
The story focuses on the troubled life of Vera Dietz who lives alone with her oftentimes sanctimonious and somber father. Vera has just lost her best friend in the whole world, a boy named Charlie, who grew up down the street from the Dietz house. But Vera is haunted by bitter memories of Charlie because of the cruel things he did before he died a mysterious and dark death, blamed for a horrible crime that happened on the day he died. Only Vera knows the truth and has the ability to clear Charlie’s name. But will she, after all he’s done to hurt her? This leads to Vera feeling extremely conflicted and guilty, asking the question: “Is it okay to hate a dead kid? Even if I loved him once? Even if he was my best friend? Is it okay to hate him for being dead?” Charlie was full of secrets during his short lifetime; some innocent and others dark, but he always confided in Vera whom he knew he could always trust. Even after Charlie changed and their friendship was damaged beyond repair, Vera still kept those secrets for Charlie. Which is why his death is so difficult for Vera; she is constantly walking the line between hating Charlie and loving him.
While this novel grapples with some dark themes, it’s very well-written and even hilarious at times. If you enjoy books written by John Green, then you’ll enjoy King’s similar writing style. I can guarantee you’ll become invested in these characters; they’re complex and three-dimensional, which is what makes them so fascinating. There is no black and white when it comes to good people and bad people, only shades of gray. But those shades of gray, caught in between morality and darkness, are what make these characters so realistic and easy to relate to. It’s not often that a novel manages to be both tragically heartbreaking and hilariously witty, but A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz manages to do just that.
For more information on A.S. King, you can visit her website at http://www.as-king.com/