Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 12, 2010
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library
Summary from Goodreads:
Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.
So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?
This was the second pick made for my local MOMS Club book club (our discussion of Wonder went great, by the way!). It was actually based on a suggestion I made, because I mentioned Ask the Passengers as an option, but the other ladies wanted us to pick something that we all hadn't read, so I decided another A.S. King novel might be fitting. This one won the Printz Award, so safe bet, right?
I finished this book several days ago, and I'm just writing my review now because I needed time to let it soak in. Despite that, I'm still feeling unsure of my final review. So let's break it down by the good and the bad.
The good: I instantly took to Vera as a protagonist. She's a bit of a loner, but she's got an attitude and thinks for herself, which is nice to see in a high schooler these days. That's not to say that she always makes good decisions, but she's not a crowd-follower, so she's got that going for her.
The way the story is laid out makes it hard to put the book down. Vera is a the primary narrator in the present time, but she also backtracks and gives you the history of her relationship with Charlie and her parents. That history plays a major role in her present situation, so you're always wondering what details will be revealed next. In between Vera's past/present narrative, you also have first person accounts from her dad, Charlie, and the Pagoda (an odd rundown landmark in her town). I am generally a fan of multiple POV novels, and in one way it works because it keeps you on your toes--you never know what each new perspective is going to reveal.
The bad: Even though the multiple POVs did well in terms of building suspense, use of two of the four perspectives irked me as a reader. First was the Charlie POV. As indicated in the book's description, Charlie has died before the novel's start. So when his POV is used, it is from him in the afterlife (his chapters open with "A Brief Word From the Dead Kid"). I think I've mentioned before that I do not like when authors use an unnatural perspective like this, because to me, it feels lazy (for lack of a better word). Like, "Hmmm, how can I convey what Charlie was feeling in this situation while he was alive? It's difficult to do it from Vera's POV...oh wait, let's just bring him back from the dead!" I'm sure that's not actually what A.S. King's thought process was, but as a reader that's all that I could think when I read Charlie's chapters.
I also was not a fan of the chapters written from the Pagoda. I get that these sections had a bit of deeper meaning, which I can appreciate, but...thoughts transcribed from a piece of architecture? It was too far out there, and as a literary device it didn't work itself seamlessly into the narrative for me.
After breaking down the good and the bad, I'd say that I appreciated Please Ignore Vera Dietz for its core storyline and message. However, the multiple POVs did not entirely work, and took away from the central action of the novel. King definitely went out on a limb with her unique use of perspective, but for me, that attempt fell short.
Are you generally a fan of multiple-perspective novels? Do you have specific books in which they did (or didn't) work for you?