If you're wondering who won the preorder contest, I kept that secret since I kept track of it by e-mails. The SOLITARY winners were Mad Scientist of Steam Punkery and Book Reviews and Jessi E. of The Elliot Review.
By A. S. King
Available now from Alfred A. Knopf (Random House)
Printz Honor Book
Read my review of DUST OF 100 DOGS and Amy's guest blog
I read quite a bit of this novel in the back of my car. Fitting, since Vera Dietz spends quite a bit of time in her car like a good pizza delivery person. (She also takes shots of vodka like a bad pizza delivery person.)
What to say? Here's what I didn't like about the book:
Jenny Flick is mean and cruel and evil and completely flat. It makes sense, since neither Vera nor co-narrating (from beyond the grave) Charlie Kahn have any reason to make an effort to see her good side. At the same time, she's one of the main external antagonists. Vera deserves a better enemy. A. S. King crafted a sharp, funny, and tragic heroine. It seems almost laughable that such a fully realized character is pitted against a deranged bully.
But it does fit, at the same time. Jenny Flick is not the main antagonist, though she would like to be. Vera's her own worst enemy. Her love is the best weapon she can turn against herself. And there are worse things in her life - and there were worse things in Charlie's - than Jenny Flick.
Here's what I liked about the book:
The structure. (It reminds me of THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS by Arundhati Roy.)
The flowcharts. Chart jokes are always funny.
The black humor. There's a running joke about a pickle that will break your heart.
The heart breaking. This isn't a maudlin, Lurlene McDaniel, saddest little cancer patient story. You know Charlie is dead, you know he was on a downhill slide when he died. You know that. King breaks you slowly by showing just how close he came to making it despite his few chances in life. She breaks you with the knowledge that Vera might not make it, that she might end up like Charlie despite having so much potential.
Smart people are excellent at doing dumb things because they think they know better.
(Perhaps, sometimes, they want to do dumb things.)
PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ is one of the reasons YA is such an exciting genre. It's an example of why writing for young adults shouldn't be underestimated. It should already be on your shelf, nestled by gems like DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS and GOING BOVINE.