Tag Archives: tragedy

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

King, A.S. Please Ignore Vera Dietz (2010). 323 Pages. Random House. $16.99

From the Cover

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?

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?

First Lines

The Funeral

The pastor is saying something about how Charlie was a free spirit. He was and he wasn’t. He was free because on the inside he was tied up in knots. He lived hard because inside he was dying. Charlie made inner conflict look delicious.

Thoughts

There’s a lot going on in this book, yet it works so well together that it’s not overwhelming. There are flashbacks, point-of-view shifts, moments of contemplation, or difficult conversations. This book is a tragedy to its core; it begins with a funeral, continues with difficult introspection and self-exploration, and concludes on a note which is only slightly higher than the beginning.

Vera Dietz has spent most of her life trying to fly under the radar, to avoid notice, and avoid her destiny. She doesn’t have close relationships, after both her mother and Charlie betrayed her, she’s not looking to be close to anyone. She just wants to move on, to hold onto her job and keep her grades up so she can afford to take some community college classes when she graduates high school. Unfortunately for Vera, she has a lot to come to terms with before she can move on. She still hasn’t faced her mother’s departure, she never really accepted Charlie’s betrayal, and his death is real to her, but so is his ghost. She’s hiding behind vodka, and losing herself in work.

There are chapters from the point of view of the Pagoda, or Charlie, and sometimes Vera’s father. (His chapters are made all the more excellent by his flow-charts).They are beautifully balanced, and all of them add a little more depth to the story, building upon what has just happened, or what is still coming, and creating this utterly perfect, utterly sad story.

Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put it down. I felt like Vera’s voice was perfect, and I couldn’t stand waiting to find out what had happened to Charlie, and how she knew about it, and why she hadn’t yet gone to the police with her knowledge, and why the police were involved at all, and what was going to happen with Vera and her Father, or work, or school, or any number of other things. Even at the end, everything is not tied up in one neat little conclusion, but it’s the sort of ending which is still somehow satisfying despite not being a neat closure. There is no happily-ever-after or anything, but it does end on a hopeful– if still a bit bleak– note.

It’s tough to read a book about death, especially one which is so very realistic. There are no flights of fancy, this is contemporary, real-world YA, and that makes it more tragic, and real. It gets a 5/5 for being just about as perfect as it could possibly have been.

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Filed under Book Review, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Love You Hate You Miss You

Scott, Elizabeth. Love You Hate You Miss You (2009). 276 Pages. Harper Collins. $16.99

From the Cover

It’s been seventy-five days. Amy’s sick of her parents suddenly taking an interest in her. And she’s really sick of people asking her about Julia. Julia’s gone now, and she doesn’t want to talk about it. They wouldn’t get it, anyway. They wouldn’t understand what it feels like to have your best friend ripped away from you.

They wouldn’t understand what it feels like to know it’s your fault.

Amy’s shrink thinks it would help to start a diary. Instead, Amy starts writing letters to Julia.

But as she writes letter after letter, she begins to realize that the past wasn’t as perfect as she thought it was– and the present deserves a chance, too.

First Lines

75 Days

Dear Julia,

Get this, I’m supposed to be starting a journal about “my journey.” Please. I can see it now:

Dear Diary,

As I’m set adrift on this crazy sea called “life,” I like to think of an inspirational poem I heard not long ago, one that made me weep because of its beauty. Today, I truly believe each day is a precious gift….

I don’t think so.

Thoughts

I wasn’t sure what to think, when I first got this book. It looked interesting enough, introspective journeys and self-discovery are fascinating when done right, and the reviews I found suggested that it was done well here. Having read it, I can agree. Amy is lost in a sea of self-doubt and loss. She’s wracked with guilt about the  death of her best friend, and she blames herself for Julia’s death.

It takes a long time for Amy to come to terms with Julia’s absence, and to begin to move on. It takes even longer for her psychiatrist to really connect with her, and yet longer for Amy to realize that she is allowed to be happy, and to move on.

This is a complicated, quietly-sad book about teenage loss, and learning to live again after losing someone you care about. It’s similar to Please Ignore Vera Dietz, without the mystery, and without the shifting POV. Love You Hate You Miss You is about Amy, and everything is in Amy’s voice. Different approaches to a similar concept, and both are great in their own way.

Amy’s voice is captivating and strong, she tells her story in her own way, and it works. It makes you hope she’ll find some peace, and some happiness, and she will maybe heal. It earns a 4/5; it’s well done overall.

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Filed under Book Review, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction