Vera Dietz would rather be ignored by her classmates than have them know the truth about her mother. Vera’s father would rather she ignored everything but school and her full-time pizza delivery job, including the abuse taking place in her best friend Charlie’s house. But ignoring things doesn’t make them go away. When Charlie dies in dark circumstances and Vera knows more about it than anyone, she has the opportunity to come forward and clear his name . . . or the option to pretend that nothing happened.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a gritty account of one young woman’s reckoning with grief. Vera is not the only narrator, though. Her dad gets to share a few stories and flowcharts, which bring needed humor to the subplot about Vera’s burgeoning alcoholism: “I wish she’d look beyond herself once in a while. But that’s a side effect of alcohol, isn’t it? Stopping to think about other people is not on the bar menu.” Charlie Kahn also weighs in with a few notes from “The Dead Kid,” when he’s not haunting Vera with messages in steamy mirrors or appearing in droves to help her find the clues to his death, and there are very funny comments from the town’s defunct landmark, the Pagoda, which read as entirely normal in this surreal universe.
The story moves back and forth in time, tracing Charlie and Vera’s friendship and its dissolution, then his death and the crime that happened the same night, weaving shared history together with the clues Vera uncovers. When all is revealed at the end, the book ends abruptly, with not much attention given to the criminal case that would inevitably follow, and little in the way of comeuppance for the truly nasty villain, Jenny Flick. But that’s a minor quibble for a book that balances intense subject matter with humor and a touch of the supernatural, and makes it all flow naturally. Ignore this book at your peril; it’s a keeper.