I was worried when I started this and felt underwhelmed after I’d seen so many great reviews. But at some point, and I can’t pinpoint where (though it is early on), this book became worthy of them all.
The story opens with Charlie’s funeral and ends with the truth of his death. The other three hundred something pages are Vera’s new day-to-day as a high school senior and pizza delivery technician now adrift without her best friend, memories from their shared pasts, and occasional snippets from The Dead Kid, Ken Dietz (Vera’s Dad), and The Pagoda
Do you have any idea how old watching idiot kids drink and do drugs up here on the rocks is getting? The funniest part is, they all think they’re more cool than their parents were, and their parents did the same crap. Also—tossing beer cans? That’s a $300 fine. You’re lucky I’m an inanimate object.
Charlie was Vera’s next door neighbor and best friend since childhood. These days he’s usually the pickle in her lunch. Vera’s the daughter of a parsimonious father and an absentee mother and is desperate not to become either of them. After Charlie turns on Vera in a nasty way, making her hate him, and then ups and dies without ever redeeming himself, she starts drinking and stops worrying about escaping the destiny she (and her father) feels her parents saddled her with. Because she knows the truth that will clear Charlie’s name and will shed light on the night he died, but can’t confront it after everything that’s happened and is happening still.
The story of Vera and Charlie is a heartbreaking one and her discoveries are hard-won—the lows are very low and the betrayal is sharp and painful. Everything is a mess, but any eventual triumphs are that much sweeter because of it. The writing, characters, and unfolding story all made for an excellent book.