Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

“Because with Charlie, nothing was ever easy. Everything was windswept and octagonal and finger-combed.  Everything was difficult and odd, and the theme songs all had minor chords.”

Vera’s former best friend Charlie is dead.  It’s hard enough when your best friend dies, she thinks, but when he stabs you in the back and then dies, it makes things infinitely worse.  Worse still, when he comes back to haunt you, with his ghostly form showing up in the car when you’re kissing another guy, or in the bathroom at school, it is the absolute pits.

Vera is eighteen, living with her father (you will love him, I think.  He’s pretty much the Best. Dad. Ever!), an accountant and recovering alcoholic who invests his whole heart in making sure she has the best future possible.  She works full time at a pizza place, and spends the rest of her time drinking to forget Charlie and the secret she is determined not to tell.  Of course, it’s not as easy as all that-Charlie’s ghost keeps showing up at inopportune times, a silent, shaming reminder urging Vera to tell what she knows and clear his name.

The best part of this book?  The format!  See, the story is told in a creative way-all first person, addressed right to you, and by different speakers.  I think readers will love Ken Dietz, Vera’s dad.  He chimes in during the story, in chapters titled things like “A Brief Word from Ken Dietz (Vera’s Frustrated Dad)” and with flow charts, like “Ken Dietz’s Face Your Shit Flow Chart”.  I kid you not, I actually made a copy of that flowchart and pasted it up on my bulletin board.  And besides Ken and Vera (and even Charlie, who pipes up every few chapters), there is the Pagoda.  That’s right, a building.  The Pagoda is a park building with special significance to Ken and his ex-wife (she left them when Vera was 12), and it gets a few chapters of its own. Trust me, the Pagoda is hilarious-I think it’s the best and funniest part of the novel.

This book combines creative elements (a haunting, a mystery, a talking Pagoda) with a great format (many voices, FLOW CHARTS!), and very common social problems of young people.  I think you’re going to love it! (And others did, too-this is a Printz Honor book, and a nominee for the Edgar Allen Poe mystery award!)

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.as-king.com/ (The website is really funny-the giant header describes her as “a corn lover” and “wearer of magical writing pants”. Awesome!)

All right, folks, since I’m in library school now, I think I’ll change the way I give the book information.  If you hate it, please let me know, and I’ll change it back!

ISBN 9780375865862
0375865861
Personal Author King, A. S.1970-
Title Please ignore Vera Dietz /A.S. King.
Edition 1st ed.
Publication info New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c2010.
Physical descrip 326 p. ; 22 cm.

Ruined by Paula Morris

“Rebecca nodded, watching Lisette amble away.  Now she understood why Lisette haunted the Bowman house.  She understood why for the past one hundred fifty years she’d drifted around in the long shadow of its quiet, oak-shaded galleries.  It was the place she’d died, murdered at the age of sixteen–and it was her father’s house.”

When Rebecca is uprooted from her New York home, and sent to live with an aunt in New Orleans, she has a hard time adjusting.   Her father has to go to China on business, and she misses him terribly.  It’s simply difficult to fit into the “close” atmosphere of New Orleans, where old money and newcomers never mix, and each family has a skeleton in the closet.

Rebecca’s aunt is a fortune-teller, and lives in a musty shotgun house crammed with artifacts.  It’s located directly across from the cemetery.  Rebecca has been warned never to enter it, but one night, she slips in…and makes a friend.  Lisette is kind, helpful, and eager to talk.  However, soon Rebecca realizes that no one else can see Lisette but her. Lisette is a ghost.

The fact that Rebecca can see Lisette is significant.  A century-old curse, New Orleans’ most prestigious family, and a dark secret create a dangerous environment for Rebecca, and it isn’t long before the truth comes out.

So, here’s the thing: I am a sucker for ghost stories.  When combined with curses, crumbling old houses, and cemeteries, I absolutely can’t resist.  Whatever! It’s a preference.  I can’t help myself. Furthermore, I whiled away thousands of hours, time when I could have been playing soccer or learning chemistry, reading my way through countless Scholastic books.  You know, the ones that are sold in paper flyers that your teacher sends home from school.  My mom used to buy tons for us, and I grew up with them.  This Scholastic story was like so many of the others, and certainly didn’t disappoint.  They are mass-marketed to students across the country: often light, engaging reads, sold in inexpensive paperback formats.  A lovely friend gave this copy to me, and I’m grateful for it.  It’s been rainy and gloomy all week long: the perfect setting for a ghost story. This one didn’t disappoint me, either.  The only thing I could ask for would be a little more creepy-haunting business, and a little less high school drama.  Other than that, this was exactly what I was hoping for: a ghost story in an interesting setting.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.trendybutcasual.typepad.com/

Morris, Paula. Ruined. New York: Scholastic Books, 2009. 309 pp. Grades 7-10.