By: A.S. King
Publisher: Knopf books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 12, 2010
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? (from goodreads.com)
I love this book. I got it out from the library, but you can bet it will be in my bag the next time I'm at the bookstore. It's ownable. It gets under your skin and makes you uncomfortable and yet, you connect with the characters and you really want all of them to be okay in the end. Even if one of those people is already dead.
King is sneaky with her writing, she doesn't come at you from one point of view or even one point in time. She circles around you and before you know it you've reached the end. She's able to take serious situations and make you laugh, even when it might be more appropriate to cry. In this book we see events unfold through the eyes of Vera, a pizza delivery technician who is dealing with the loss of her best friend and what to do with the information she knows about that night, Charlie, her very much dead but still around best friend, Vera's Dad, who is struggling to be a good parent and deal with a wife who has been gone for years, and the Pagoda, local icon/hangout. I think the back cover of the book sums it up pretty nicely...
Vera: Clear Charlie's name, get over his death & help Dad with all his Mom stuff.
Charlie: Haunt Vera until she talks, then rest in peace.
Ken Dietz: Get Vera through high school & get on with my life, or what's left of it.
Pagoda: Sit here for another hundred years watching people do stupid crap.
In those four sentences we see the path that they are on, what the end goal is, what they want. Through the story we see how they got there. It's a tangled story that deals with some hefty issues. Child abuse, alcoholism, pedophilia, mental disorders, ptsd, what it means to be a good parent and what it means to be a good person. We see Vera try to deal with the death of her best friend Charlie and the loss that occured months earlier when he betrayed her. Both Charlie and Vera were trying to break the chain, to make a new destiny for themselves. Throughout the story, which includes memories from Charlie and Vera's life together as best friends, we see them stumble, sometimes spectacularly. What we hope is that Vera will come out of it better and smarter and most importantly, healed. Luckily King writes with a sense of humor that doesn't make light of the issues at hand, but does make them easier to read.
I don't want to give anything away- so I will leave it at that. It's about pain and loss, hope and healing. I guarentee you will be thinking about it days after you finish reading.