Book Trailer: A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron

I’m so excited today to be able to help reveal the trailer for Sharon Cameron’s book A Spark Unseen, the sequel to The Dark Unwinding. You might remember how much I loved The Dark Unwinding, with its rich atmospheric prose, smart, personable characters, and Victorian Gothic setting. I hope if you haven’t given this series a shot yet, this trailer will be just the nudge you need!

Pretty nifty, right? And as cool as the gadgets and the house and the eerie atmosphere are in the trailer, I promise, they are even better in the book. So what are you waiting for? Go out and grab a copy of The Dark Unwinding today, and pre-order A Spark Unseen!


The thrilling sequel to Sharon Cameron’s blockbuster gothic steampunk romance, THE DARK UNWINDING, will captivate readers anew with mystery and intrigue aplenty.

When Katharine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected and also find the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead.

But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katharine soon finds herself embroiled in a labyrinth of political intrigue. And with unexpected enemies and allies at every turn, Katharine will have to figure out whom she can trust–if anyone–to protect her uncle from danger once and for all.

Filled with deadly twists, whispering romance, and heart-stopping suspense, this sequel to THE DARK UNWINDING whisks readers off on another thrilling adventure.

A Spark Unseen Releases September 24, 2013.

Blog Hop dates are September 9-20. Spots are still available. More information here. Participants will receive an arc of A Spark Unseen. 

Special incentive for the trailer release! Tweet or post on your own blog about the trailer release and be entered in to in win an arc of A Spark Unseen. You will need to include @CameronSharonE in the tweet in order to receive credit. Please tweet all blog links to the same twitter account. Retweets will also count. 


When Katharine Tulman’s inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.

As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle’s world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it.


ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection, 2013

Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of 2013

The Crystal Kite Member’s Choice Award, 2013, SCBWI

ABC Best Books for Children, 2012

Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award, SCBWI, 2009

“Haunting thrills unfurl. . . .” –ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

“Utterly original, romantic, and spellbindingly imaginative.” –USA TODAY

“Cameron’s eerie and suspenseful first novel offers gripping twists, rich language, and an evocative landscape.” –PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“Cameron, through wry, observant Katharine, spins a deliciously gothic tale. . . . By turns funny and poignant, this period mystery is a thoroughgoing delight.” –KIRKUS REVIEWS

“Cameron has produced a ripping good read with all the drama, intrigue, and romance of a Victorian pot-boiler with mystery, suspense, and hints of the supernatural thrown in for good measure.” –VOICE OF YOUTH ADVOCATES


Sharon Cameron was awarded the 2009 Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for her debut novel, The Dark Unwinding. When not writing Sharon can be found thumbing dusty tomes, shooting her longbow, or indulging in her lifelong search for secret passages.

Review: Deception by C.J. Redwine (and SIGNED ARC GIVEAWAY!)

I absolutely loved C.J. Redwine’s debut post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure, Defiance. It was one of my favorite books of 2012, probably because it’s exactly the kind of story that appeals to me: strong, smart characters battling creepy villains, lots of action, sweet romance, and A DRAGON THAT LIVES UNDERGROUND. Seriously, the underground dragon would probably have been enough for me. Probably. But dragons aside (…did I really just say “dragons aside?” Who even am I anymore?), it’s an amazing story.

So when C.J. offered me an early opportunity to read the sequel, Deception, of course I jumped on it.

I mean…not literally. You shouldn’t jump on books.

And I am pleased to report it totally lived up to my expectations. And this is good for several reasons.

1) Because Defiance is awesome, so it’s good that the sequel is also awesome.

2) Because Deception hits bookstores today, so you can go get your copy right now.

3) Because I’m giving away my SIGNED ARC of Deception to one of you lucky readers!*

So without further ado, let’s talk about Deception, shall we?

The Plot (from Goodreads):

Baalboden has been ravaged. The brutal Commander’s whereabouts are unknown. And Rachel, grief stricken over her father’s death, needs Logan more than ever. With their ragged group of survivors struggling to forge a future, it’s up to Logan to become the leader they need—with Rachel by his side. Under constant threat from rival Carrington’s army, who is after the device that controls the Cursed One, the group decides to abandon the ruins of their home and take their chances in the Wasteland.

But soon their problems intensify tenfold: someone—possibly inside their ranks—is sabotaging the survivors, picking them off one by one. The chaos and uncertainty of each day puts unbearable strain on Rachel and Logan, and it isn’t long before they feel their love splintering. Even worse, as it becomes clear that the Commander will stop at nothing to destroy them, the band of survivors begins to question whether the price of freedom may be too great—and whether, hunted by their enemies and the murderous traitor in their midst, they can make it out of the Wasteland alive.

In this daring sequel to Defiance, with the world they once loved forever destroyed, Rachel and Logan must decide between a life on the run and standing their ground to fight.

My Thoughts: 

If you’re still reeling from the catastrophic ending of Defiance, fear not. Deception picks up very shortly after Defiance ends, with Logan and Rachel trying to figure out what to do with the hundred-plus survivors of Baalboden. It hits the ground running, and the first couple chapters introduce a lot of new characters. At first, I was a little concerned about all the names being flung at me. Defiance was mostly Rachel and Logan alone in the wilderness, so I didn’t have to worry about oodles of secondary characters. But never fear; C.J. Redwine handles her new, expanded cast deftly. Within a few chapters, the glut of new names were fleshed out into fully realized characters. I had no trouble remembering who was who, and I loved so many of the new players. Quinn and Willow, in particular, rocketed up to the top of my Favorites list. Their story was so layered and intriguing. If C.J. ever wants to do a spin-off series about the two of them, I’d read it.

There are two main conflicts in Deception: the problem of what to do with all the survivors, who are still being pursued by the nefarious Commander, and the alarming realization that there is a traitor in their midst. The resulting balance between action-driven tension as they flee the Commander’s army, and internal tension as Rachel and Logan try to suss out who has betrayed them, was masterfully handled, and kept me turning pages long after I should have turned out the lights and gone to bed.

Personally, my favorite part of the book was the murder mystery. C.J. gives the reader enough clues that it is possible to guess the murderer (I did), but you’re never 100% sure you’re right. I think that’s the mark of a well-handled mystery. I don’t like it when the answer comes out of nowhere, nor do I appreciate it being so obvious that it kills the tension. There’s a fine balance, and Deception does it well. The fact that it performs this feat while the characters are fleeing through the wilderness and fighting armies and blowing stuff up and cowering from dragons just makes it that much more amazing. And when you do find out who the murderer is, it comes with a few twists of its own that perhaps a more savvy reader could have guessed, but took me totally by surprise. In a good way.

I also really appreciated that Deception did not fall prey to the common practice to break up the two main characters who spent a good chunk of the first book coming together. A lot of times, it seems storytellers get bored with functional romantic relationships, so they throw in DRAMA and pull the characters (that they spent so much time convincing us were MFEO) apart. Not so in Deception. Rachel and Logan mature both as characters and as a couple, and like most couples who have weathered a few storms, are allowed to get upset with each other and disagree, without it having to mean they CAN NO LONGER BE TOGETHER EVER, OH THE ANGST.

Speaking of angst, Deception does not shy away from high stakes and raw emotion. Much like a certain wagon scene in Defiance, one chapter needs to have a warning label to have a box of tissues handy, or at least change your shirt into one that can double as a tissue. A lot of times in books, and perhaps in YA in particular, it seems that the Strong Female Characters can’t show their emotions. They can’t grieve their losses or feel broken from pain. In these books, I appreciate that Rachel is strong, but also feels so much. Emotions don’t make a character weak. Neither do tears. And I think it speaks so much to the character of Rachel that she can hurt and weep and break, but then she gets up and keeps going. She carries her losses with her, and they make her stronger. But because the reader is in Rachel’s head when horrible things happen to the people she loves, we get to feel all that strong emotion right along with her.

So. As I said. Box of tissues. Change of shirt. You have been warned.

I could go on for ages about how much I love this series, these characters, this world, but I think you’ve got the gist of it. Adventure. Murder. Dragons. Villainy. Romance. Swordfights. Treachery. Anguish. Triumph. All stirred up together in a fantastic, masterfully executed whirlwind of action and tension and twists and emotion. I couldn’t put it down.

And now the giveaway! Enter below to win my signed ARC of DECEPTION! U.S. only, please. Giveaway will run for one week. (And I shouldn’t have to say this, but no cheating. I’ll be checking.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*You can put it in a place of honor on your shelf right next to the shiny hardcover that I know you’re totally going to buy, right? Because ARCs are cool (especially signed ARCs), but real books are better. And C.J.’s real books are so very pretty.

Film Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

I read the first book in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series over a year ago, and while I liked it, it didn’t leave me chomping at the bit to read the rest of the series immediately. Really, I remember thinking after finishing the book, the format I wanted to experience this story in was cinema. Everything was so big and bold and visual. It’s funny, because I’ve read other books that I adored as books, and while I loved the film versions as well, the books held the magic for me. *coughHarryPottercough*. But for whatever reason, City of Bones just felt like a movie to me, even while reading.

So obviously, I was happy to hear it was being made into a movie. This is how I wanted to experience this story in the first place! I wasn’t a rabid fan like many out there, but the trailers looked good and I’m a big fan of on-screen magical demon slayage, however I can get it. Then I managed to snag a couple passes to an advance screening, which really made the decision to see it a no-brainer.

Overall, I was really pleased with the adaptation. I think it’s good that I only read the book once, and I read it a while ago, because while I was familiar with the story, I wasn’t so familiar that every deviation from the source material stood out like someone pointed a spotlight on them *coughHarryPottercough*. I could experience the story with eyes that may have not been fresh, but were at least wide open. I thought the casting was (mostly) spot-on, the acting was good, the writing was solid, and the effects and visuals were lovely.

The main characters of the book all made the transition from book to screen more or less intact. I still liked Simon more than Jace (I feel like, as in the book, Jace relies a lot on smolder, and Simon on wit, and for me, wit will always trump smolder). Also, Simon makes a Ghostbusters reference early on that pretty much cemented him as my Favorite Franchise Character Forever. But book-Jace fans will not be disappointed. There is plenty of smolder and snark, as well as heaps of demon-slaying goodness. I also enjoyed Alec and Isabelle, although if I had to pick one character who didn’t make the jump to screen as well as the others, I’d have to go with Alec. He was…fine? But I didn’t really feel anything toward him, whereas I liked Alec in the book.

The supporting players — Valentine, Jocelyn, Luke, Magnus — were all strong. I would be totally happy to see a movie solely about the adult cast. They all made excellent use of very little screen time, and I found myself wishing for more of all of them (although don’t get me wrong — I didn’t wish for less of the teen cast, either). Jonathan Rhys Meyers has made deliciously sinister into an art form, and it makes me want to go back and watch The Tudors again even though I had to quit that show (because seriously, guys, SO MANY NASTY EXECUTIONS). Lena Headey was strong and confident and I wish she was conscious more. Aidan Turner played a no-nonsense werewolf so well, I didn’t even remember that he’s a hobbit. And I know there are a truckload of Magnus Bane fans out there, but he’s not in the first book much, nor is he in the first movie much, so I don’t really get it yet. But I can say, Godfrey Gao totally rocked the guyliner.

As far as story goes, I think the writers walked the tightrope of cut-vs-keep masterfully. A very twisty-turny plot was, for the most part, streamlined into something a new audience could grasp without dumbing it down and alienating the original fans. Yes, there were some scenes in the book (even some action scenes, surprisingly) that didn’t make the cut. Yes, there were some lines added to the film version that didn’t really enhance the experience at all (one, in particular, I felt robbed the audience of an especially gasp-inducing moment). But for the most part, I thought all the variations from the book made sense, adapting the story into one that will please fans of the book as well as people who have never picked up the series before.

There’s lots of action, lots of intensity, and a crazy-creepy world where nothing is ever as it seems. As YA book-to-movie adaptations go, it’s definitely one of the better ones I’ve seen. I didn’t Hunger Games love it, but I absolutely enjoyed it. I think fans of the books will be pleased, and those new to the story will be drawn in. It even made me want to go read the second book in the series, which I was previously unmotivated to do. And for a film based on a book — especially the first film in a series — I think that’s one of the best reactions it could hope to inspire.

Review: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I listened to the audio version of this book.

I think you all know how much I loved Markus Zusak’s book, The Book Thief. Both the story itself and the way it is told are beautiful and moving in a way I hadn’t experienced in other books. After reading The Book Thief, I had several friends recommend another of Zusak’s critically acclaimed novels, I Am the MessengerThey swore that although the reading experience was very different from Book Thief, it was just as rewarding.

It’s true that I Am the Messenger varies significantly from The Book Thief. It takes place in Australia, not Germany; the narrator is a 19-year-old cab driver, not Death; and the story revolves around the stagnant and hapless Ed Kennedy instead of the clever and quietly defiant Liesel Meminger. But it still utilizes Zusak’s captivating prose, and his wholly unique method of storytelling.

The Plot (from Goodreads):

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

My Thoughts:

I have a hard time summing up my thoughts on this book. I’ve been thinking about it for months, trying to come up with a neat little 3-paragraph blurb that can adequately encompass I Am the Messenger, and I’m not sure it’s possible. I can say I liked it. I can say that the audio narration is excellent. I can say that it was smart and funny and touching and wholly original. I can say I’m still not sure I liked the ending. But I’m not sure that really covers it. So I’ll just do my best, and you’ll have to take my word for it that this book is one that really must be experienced to be understood, and nothing I can say in a review will really do it justice.

From the opening moments, Zusak grounds the story with Ed Kennedy’s authentic voice, and I immediately settled into the mind of this 19-year-old unmotivated cab driver, who in a moment of uncharacteristic fervor, foils a bank robbery. Ed’s not quite sure why he does it, but his choice is the catalyst for all that comes next. He starts receiving playing cards in the mail, and on the cards is information about a list of strangers. Ed figures out that he has to intervene in the lives of these strangers to “complete” the card and move on to the next one, and his encounters with the people he is tasked with vary from sweet and quiet to violent and disturbing. He doesn’t know who’s sending the cards or why, just that he must complete each card…or else. Or else what? He’s not quite sure. He only knows he doesn’t want to find out.

I liked Ed a lot, which is good, because if you don’t like Ed, you won’t like this book. There are so many questions floating around — Who’s sending the cards? Why? How do they decide what Ed must do? What will they do if he fails? Why does Ed comply so easily? — that the only way it works is to go along with Ed, accept his confusion and his actions as just part of who he is, and enjoy the ride. He is a remarkably well-developed character, one of the most well-rounded and personable narrators I’ve encountered. I don’t know if it’s a fault or a strength that next to the fully formed person that is Ed Kennedy, the other characters in the book — with the possible exception of his malodorous, coffee-loving canine companion, the Doorman — seem like simply that: characters. Even his best friends and the girl he’s loved forever feel viewed through a fuzzy lens when compared to Ed. It doesn’t really take away from the story; it just puts the whole thing so firmly inside Ed’s head that it sometimes felt almost dreamlike, like he was the only real thing in the crazy world he inhabits. (Interestingly enough, I noticed this same almost hazy effect with Zusak’s other critically acclaimed novel, The Book Thief, although the devices used to achieve the effect were quite different.)

I loved the intrigue of the story, although it’s not what I’d call a mystery. In a mystery, there are clues along the way that allow an astute reader to piece together the truth of what’s happening along with the characters. In I Am the Messenger, there aren’t clues. Ed spends almost the entirety of the book mystified, moving blindly from one task to the next. It wasn’t frustrating for me — I felt that I was supposed to be lost along with Ed, and that when answers were finally forthcoming, they would be because someone outside of Ed decided to let him in on the secret, and not through any deductions of his — or my — own.

I also loved all the individual challenges Ed found himself up against. They were almost vignette-like, self-contained bubbles of story that occasionally intertwined, but most often remained separate. My favorite was Ed’s relationship with an elderly woman suffering from dementia, who mistakes Ed for her late husband, Jimmy. His interactions with her were so tender and bittersweet that I could have read an entire book about just the two of them. Each of Ed’s other encounters has a distinctly different flavor, oscillating between wholesome and uplifting to dark and sinister, and everything in between. The only constant linking them together as all part of the same narrative is Ed. And being such a wonderful character, Ed is enough.

The only problem I had with this book was the ending. And I’ve spoken to plenty of intelligent, well-read friends who love the ending, so take this with a grain of salt. It may just be me. But for me, after this book full of questions and genuine emotion and a fantastically authentic narrator, I wanted the ending to fit really organically into the grounded world Zusak created for Ed. And instead I got an existential crisis of an ending that seemed almost like a cheat. Like there really was no way to pull all the disparate threads of story together, so Zusak gave himself an out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If an author is going to use a device like this, I don’t think there’s really a better way to do it than the way Zusak did it. I think the man is a masterful storyteller and a stunning wordsmith, and I have no qualms with the mechanics and skill with which he crafted the ending. I just wish he hadn’t used the device he did at all. I wish he didn’t pull me out of the story the way he did. For me, it diminished what I find to be the main selling point of the entire story, which is the authenticity of Ed. I wanted to stay fully submersed in Ed’s world, and have everything come together to make sense from that vantage point, right up until the very end. Instead, it forced me to pull back and re-frame my perception of everything that had happened, and I didn’t appreciate that.

However, ending aside, I did truly love this book. And I know plenty of people whose opinions I deeply respect that love this book, including the ending. So whether or not you like those last few pages, I still highly recommend I Am the Messenger. It’s smart, engaging, original, and will keep the wheels in your head spinning madly long after you turn the final page.

Review: Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

To explain why I read this book, I must first tell you a story. Gather round, children.

This year I’ve set a somewhat lofty goal for myself. Somehow, using logic I can’t quite work through anymore, I decided that I was totally up for running a half marathon with three other friends. Nevermind that I’ve never been much of a runner, and that last year my year-long goal was to be able to run a 5K over Thanksgiving. I spent a year training my body to be able to run three miles. And then this year, my brain was all, “Hey, if I can run three miles, what’s another ten?”

Brain, you suck.

So anyway, I’ve been training for the past few months to try to whip my horridly reluctant body into shape for this race, and something I learned early on is that I’m not a fan of running to music. Besides the fact that my playlist gets repetitive after days of running to the same music, seven years of marching band has trained me that I must step on the beat. My feet don’t really give me a choice in the matter. And you know what? Very few songs, even upbeat ones, are performed at my ideal running tempo.

So instead I turned to audio books. I’ve never been an audio books person before, but they seemed the perfect distraction/reward to take my mind off the miles passing underfoot. And they work wonderfully. I still don’t enjoy running (although I don’t loathe it quite so much as I did when I first started), but once I find my rhythm, I’m able to sink into the book and tune out the pavement and the breathing and the sweat. (Okay, not the sweat. There is no ignoring the sweat.)

Being cheap, I get my audio books in digital form from the library, and the only problem with that is that the selection is somewhat limited, and there is often a waiting list. So I’m constantly putting multiple audio books on hold, in the hopes that by the time I finish one, I’ll have progressed to the front of the queue for another. The problem with this is, sometimes I finish a book and none of the others on my list are available, and I’m left drifting and bookless and alone.

The last time this happened, I put out a plea on Twitter for someone to suggest an audio book that was:

A) Good (Because running is hard enough without running to a bad audio book)

B) Popular enough that my library would probably have it

C) Under-the-radar enough that it would be available for check out right now

Kind of a tall order, but I had several helpful Twitter followers suggest a few titles, including one I’d never heard of, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King. However, I was desperate, and she swore it was fantastic, and HEY, the library had it available for instant digital download. Score. I loaded it onto my phone, threw on my running shoes, and headed out the door, wondering what kind of book I was getting myself into. I often know very little about a book when I start it, but this time I knew literally nothing except the title. Eep.

Fortunately, the book lived up to its promise.

The Plot (from Goodreads):

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?

My Thoughts:

Please Ignore Vera Dietz is one of the more uniquely crafted tales I’ve read. First of all, the bulk of the story is told by Vera, but occasionally we get another point of view, and none of them are your run-of-the-mill YA narrator. One is her dead ex-best friend, Charlie. One is her dad. And one is a building. Yup, that’s right, a building. And strangely, even with an adult POV and an inanimate object POV, it works.

Then there’s the structure of the story, which oscillates between the present narrative, several months after Charlie’s death, and the past, jumping around from the time Charlie and Vera were small to the weeks leading up to his death. Even though the story is told in an extremely non-linear fashion, following more a stream-of-consciousness than logical chronology, I didn’t find it hard to follow at all. It made sense. An event would happen, and it would remind Vera of a memory, which we would view through her eyes. Or Vera would wonder why something happened, and we’d flash to her dad or Charlie, giving a perspective Vera never knew about.

There’s also the barest hint of the supernatural, with Charlie observing Vera from beyond the grave, and eventually, seeming like he still has some sway on the outside world. But it’s subtle, and this is by no means a paranormal story. Charlie and Vera each have their own interpretations of what’s happening, and it’s up to the reader to decide what to make of it.

Digging into the story itself, I thought it was a beautiful examination of so many big issues, each of which was handled with care and presented thoughtfully, without making this seem like a Big Issues Book. There’s the obvious one: the death of a friend. But there’s also the betrayal of a friend, and the perils inherent in navigating the treacherous waters of trying to keep a friend from childhood through the teen years. There’s alcoholism, viewed from the perspectives of a person in recovery and a person on the brink. There’s romance, and all the various ways teens approach flirtation and dating and jealousy and sex. There’s abandonment by a parent, the struggle of a single parent, and the tension between a parent trying to protect his child from the mistakes he made, and the teenage girl yearning for the independence to make her own mistakes.

And those are just the main plot points. There’s a bunch more Big Issues that arise in the subplots, and though that may seem like way too many Big Issues for one book, they’re handled masterfully, so they all play off each other and interconnect in a way that seems balanced and real. Honestly, until I typed them out right now, I didn’t realize just how many Big Issues there were. It seemed organic and natural, giving good perspectives and making some excellent observations without ever once giving even the slightest hint of being preachy.

The characters were treated with equal deftness. Vera was a wonderful narrator. She was smart and sassy and funny, but she also had her share of insecurities and doubts. She screwed up in some pretty major ways without it ever feeling like she had to screw up for the sake of story. All her choices felt like things she would really do, even though she was a smart kid and some of her decisions were pretty terrible. Because sometimes smart, good kids make bad decisions. And this book does an excellent job of exploring why. I was totally sucked in by her story, her history with Charlie, and how she was dealing with his death.

Then there was Charlie, who did some pretty rotten things before he died, but who is never a completely unlikable character. He explains some of his more abhorrent activities without really making excuses. Mostly, Charlie regrets the choices he made that hurt Vera and led to his death, and works to make the reader understand why those choices seemed necessary at the time, even if he wishes now he could take them back. Charlie’s story is a sad one, and it seemed his whole life was a series of trying to make the best of the terrible hand he was dealt — and sometimes he failed. Big time. His sections do an excellent job of providing explanations, not excuses, and they made me really feel for this screwed up kid.

The biggest surprise in this book is Vera’s father, Ken. He starts out as your typical YA parent — overprotective and clueless. The kind of YA parent that I think is way overused (and only marginally better than the Dead YA Parents) and always leaves me frustrated. But through the inclusion of his POV, we’re able to see why he treats Vera the way he does, his struggles, his aspirations for her life. And although this is YA and he is an adult, he goes through a coming-of-age arc of his own, as he fights with his own inner demons to try to give his daughter the life he never had. I really love that he was treated so thoughtfully as a character, and that the reader was able to understand his perspective. I wish more YA books took the approach of presenting the parents as real people, and took the time to explore the often-strained relationship between teens and their parents from both sides of the coin. I understand that teens aren’t necessarily chomping at the bit to read a story told in the voice of their parents, but if it’s handled well, as it is in this book, I think it really enhances the story, no matter the age of the reader.

Overall, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a beautifully constructed tale of love, friendship, loss, and betrayal, with a varied cast of wonderfully realized characters who really brought the story to life. It tackles a myriad of tough issues, any one of which could bog a lesser book down, with grace and aplomb. It’s in turns funny and poignant, thoughtful and carefree, and one of the most unique and well-executed books I’ve read in a while.