King, A. S. Please Ignore Vera Dietz.
The death of a best friend is hard enough, but for high-school senior Vera Dietz, her reaction to the death of Charlie Kahn is complicated by the fact that in the last few months he’d dumped her for the druggie pack at school, especially tough-girl Jenny. Flashbacks and compact commentary from Charlie himself, from Vera’s straitlaced dad, and from an omniscient local landmark interweave with Vera’s current narration, painting the picture of Vera and Charlie’s close friendship and its recent souring and revealing that Vera is the guilty and troubled possessor of many secrets about her late friend. King offers a perceptive exploration of a particular kind of friendship, one where one friend is undergoing agonies beyond the power of the other to help. Vera’s own troubles—her abandonment by her mother, the strictness and emotional evasion of her recovering-alcoholic father—get sympathetic treatment, but it’s clear that Vera is loved and cared for in a way that Charlie, stuck in a poisonous, abusive home, simply wasn’t. Yet it’s Vera’s life even more than Charlie’s that’s under scrutiny here, especially since Vera still has the possibility of making changes, both in her dealing with Charlie’s memory and in her ongoing relationships. The writing is emotional yet unfussy, and Vera’s tendency to see and perceive Charlie in every place and every thing is both effective and affecting. It’s not uncommon for the dysfunction in one friend’s life to start sowing seeds of doom for a friendship, and Vera’s poignant take on her double loss will resonate with many readers. DS