Home FeatureBook Reviews “Please Ignore Vera Dietz” and the Power of Voice in Young Adult Lit

“Please Ignore Vera Dietz” and the Power of Voice in Young Adult Lit

by Rebecca Bienskie Jackson

Are you often more enticed to read a book once you find out it’s banned?

A.S King, otherwise published as Amy Sarig King, has written a plethora of books that have skimmed a banned book list. Published under two different names for young adult and middle-grade books, King has gained a reputation for breaking the status quo. Oftentimes addressing “taboo topics” in her YA books. One of which is “Please Ignore Vera Dietz.”

I was introduced to this book in Laura Nicosia’s Young Adult Literature class, (ENGL 305). Going into this novel I had no idea I would be completely captivated by this story long after finishing it.

This book follows 18-year-old high schooler Vera Dietz in the months following the death of her fresh ex-best friend, Charlie. Throughout the story you see Vera cope with the loss of Charlie as he simultaneously haunts her until she tells the truth about his death.

Set in Pennsylvania in the early 2010s, the book features three other perspectives other than Vera’s. The first-person POV switches to Vera’s dad Ken Dietz, Charlie himself in the afterlife and the pagoda, an Eastern Asian tiered tower, in the center of town. The different perspectives all connect to the story at large as well as leading Vera to find herself and confidence along the way.

As mentioned earlier, King does not shy away from “taboo topics” in her stories. This allows many teens across the world to relate to and recognize a voice that may be reminiscent of their own life. “Please Ignore Vera Dietz” has a list of topics that may be hard for some readers to consume such as abuse, sexual violence and pedophilia. Vera is not safe in her small town as she is exposed to many awful situations while growing up.

This goes to show that everyone lives different lives and that it is important to talk about these topics to spread awareness. If every book written was a utopia, people may think there is something wrong with them for growing up differently. This book also features different family situations following the Dietzs as well as Charlie’s family, the Kahns.

One of the defining characteristics of “Please Ignore Vera Dietz” is the use of different character perspectives. The primary voice is Vera Dietz herself. She is the one who tells the story with the other perspectives sprinkled throughout. She is blunt, straightforward and oftentimes a little too hard on herself. She is an accurate depiction of a teen girl finding herself and going through self-discovery. King’s use of first-person POV for Vera directly shows her character development during the story.

What makes “Please Ignore Vera Dietz” a stand-out story from a lot of other YA novels is the inclusion of Vera’s father, Ken Dietz’s, perspective. This broadens the story and it allows possible parents who might be reading the book to form a connection as well. King adds flow charts into Ken’s chapters, which is an interesting visual for readers as well as further insight into his mind.

King's use of flow charts creates visual interest and gives insight into Ken Dietz's character.
Rebecca Bienskie Jackson | The Montclarion

King's use of flow charts creates visual interest and gives insight into Ken Dietz's character.
Rebecca Bienskie Jackson | The Montclarion

Charlie himself even gets a voice in this book. While his sections are short, he has the full perspective of the story and he knows of course how he died. He clues the audience in, in ways that Vera can’t. He begins his chapters with “a brief word from the dead kid” which is a little unnerving but also exciting because who doesn’t like ghosts?

Lastly, the pagoda watches over the characters in this book like Dr. TJ Eckleburg from “The Great Gatsby.” Or more spiritually, like a god. The pagoda has a few impactful lines in the book humbling the kids and really putting everything into perspective. Having an inanimate object as a POV is an interesting artistic take and adds to the magical realism of the novel.

These different perspectives bring about the question, “Who has a voice?” Additionally, the perspectives show the impact of including different sides to complete a whole narrative.

The writing style in this novel, especially the different perspectives, was so fascinating. King did a great job portraying the teen experience and got this mystery/coming-of-age story across really well. The way she writes about topics while spreading awareness is honestly inspiring. This story was emotional, relatable and genuinely such a good read.

This book’s audience is primarily teens, but reading this book as a college student or even an adult has so many perks. Even though I am slightly older than Vera, I still found this story so engaging and I truly think so many people can learn and take away valuable insights from this book.

You may also like

WP-Backgrounds by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann