Cannonball Read review number 5:
I wasn’t trying to ignore Vera, I’d just never heard of her before she won a Printz Honor in January. But boy I’m glad I picked up this book. Vera is a senior in high school trying to get through the rest of the year without getting noticed by anyone. Actually this has long been her M.O., but it was made a lot more difficult by the death of her best (and only) friend Charlie under mysterious circumstances. She’s also got a mother who left for Vegas when Vera was 12, a father who buries himself in self-help books, and a full time job at Pagoda Pizza. And she keeps a bottle of vodka under the seat of her car. And she sometimes sees a thousand two dimensional Charlies around her, talking to her, changing the radio station. Pretty overwhelming.
Charlie and Vera had been best friends forever, ever since her dad got clean (he was an alcoholic) and moved their family to the good side of town. They were always together, building a treehouse in the forest behind their houses, hiking the trails to the top of the Pagoda (is it a rock formation? a strange hotel? I’m unsure), Charlie always smoking and disheveled. They were comfortable in their two person world, ignoring Vera’s absent mother and Charlie’s parents’ constant fights, until Charlie fell in with the wrong crowd–the Detentionheads–and things go very wrong, ending with Charlie dead in his own front yard, probably pushed out of a car and left to choke on his own vomit.
The book starts with Charlie’s funeral and wends its sarcastic, pained way through the next several months. Through Vera’s discomfort at school, her flirtation with her 23-year-old coworker James, and ultimately the revelation of what happened to Charlie. Most of the book is Vera’s narration, though Ken, Charlie and the Pagoda all have their say as well. Ken’s dad provides flow charts. Vera also gives us flashbacks of her and Charlie’s past, and the dirty white car that’s the first clue in the mystery of Charlie’s death.
Definitely worth reading for Vera’s voice alone–during an argument with her dad, she describes her rage as a million angry “Kubrick monkeys” who make her want to act crazy.
This book was from the library, as 95% of the books I read are.