Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King

Teenagers do such stupid things.  I mean really dumb stuff because of hormones and still developing brains and other things I've forgotten about since I left the teen years over a decade ago.  I kept trying to remind myself of that while reading this book.  This fall has been so full of loss that I am hyper-aware of the fragility of life.  The sacredness of this very short time we are given. Yada yada yada.  I'll stop with the annoying platitudes. Let's just say that in my current fiction-reading mode I do not feel kindly about characters who, when given an array of possible choices, choose the stupidest and most destructive ones.

Vera's best friend Charlie did just this.  He made wrong choice after wrong choice and it killed him.  No spoilers here, we find that out in the beginning.  The rest of the book just unravels the series of bad decisions.  I guess I can handle that.  A bit heavy-handed on the author's part:  "if you do these things you will die."

But then strong and true Vera, who has always done the right thing even though her mom abandoned her and her best friend (the aforementioned Charlie) dies, suddenly starts making really horrible decisions, too.  Like drinking heavily when she knows her father is a recovering alcoholic.  Then driving after said drinking. Sneaking out to bars.  Making out with a 23-year-old who buys her booze. Stuff like that.

Vera's deceptions aren't really the crux of the story.  Just dumb teenager hijinks.* Well, maybe more of the hijinks of someone who has lost her best friend and hasn't allowed herself to mourn properly.  In which case I can grudgingly understand her choices even though I heartily disapprove.

The real center of this story is Vera's evolving relationship with her father.  And let me say that it is comforting to see a realistic portrayal of a functioning father-daughter relationship.  By the end of the novel, they are both able to empathize with each other (I know! A teenager empathizing with a parent!) and work through the abandonment issues of mom leaving and the loss of Charlie.

So yes, this is a good book.  One that is worthy of the Printz Honor medal it received.  I would give it to older teens who are looking for a solid story instead of the usual paranormal romance.  I just wasn't in the right mood to fully appreciate it.

Here's hoping I pass through my crankypants stage soon and find a book I can fall in love with.

<I checked this book out of my library.>

*Dumb teenager hijinks of which I wildly approve and would encourage:
The ole hall o' paper cups prank
And everyone's favorite: tinfoiling the office

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