Despite glowing reviews from many, I did not come to enjoy Vera Dietz all that much. Vera herself is sarcastic and bright so I should have liked her, but her character just did not appeal to me. None of the characters in fact did anything for me, perhaps due to the dark circumstances everyone in the novel seemed to be under.
Vera is the daughter of a teenage mother who left when she was 12 and a former alcoholic father with repressed feelings and yadda yadda. Vera also recently lost her best friend Charlie to unknown circumstances (at least to the reader) and now the ghost of Charlie is stalking Vera. Charlie was also the child of an abusive father, amongst other issues. I could go on but I think one gets the picture: everyone in the book is really messed up.
For starters, I felt the ghost aspect of Charlie was unnecessary. Had the images of Charlie Vera was seeing only been in her mind it would have been preferable. Instead Charlie has chapters where he explains himself from the beyond and causes events to occur in the present. It just didn't quite work for me, I felt it would have been more realistic to have it be a mental issue Vera was working through.
The book summary implies that there is a big mystery to how Charlie died and the circumstances surrounding his demise, but the focus of the book is not the mystery. This was a disappointment to not have a big reveal that was promised in the beginning stages of the book.
My biggest issue with the book was Vera and Charlie's behavior. Vera drinks despite knowing the risks and then drives as a pizza delivery person. For someone smart she is really freakin' stupid. She does this continually. Charlie also becomes someone who excessively drinks, does drugs and overall is a terrible individual but Vera cannot seem to come to terms with this fact. I've never had any tolerance for individuals who found it cool or even acceptable to drink, do drugs, smoke etc etc even as a teenager so I found it difficult to respect any of the characters in the book. If I cannot respect a character or person, I generally cannot LIKE them either. Funny how that works eh?
Vera continually complains about her father turning a blind eye to the abuse of Charlie's mother next door and other events. However, Vera herself is a hypocrite because she does the exact same thing when it comes to the pet store! I was horrified by Vera's choices when it came to the pet store situation. *Spoiler* Vera does not call 911. Vera does not try to rescue any of the animals. Vera runs away and hides and never takes any action until months and months later. She also seemed to be far too concerned for the girl who set the fire being in the building rather than the innocent animals. Why care about the psycho? I don't get it.
The reconciliation the father and daughter appear to have at the end of book was highly unrealistic in my opinion. The broken relationship for more than 6 years only takes a few talks to fix? Really? I don't think so. I also did not care for the father's chapters or his annoying graphs (made more annoying reading on the Kindle). He was also obstinate about Vera not having a dog for no logical reason, I was never going to be a fan of his to begin with but this sealed the deal.
Overall I had many complaints about the characters but overall I cannot say the novel was poorly written. I had many moments where I enjoyed Vera's voice and intelligence, but it was often hampered by the other circumstances. While I do not agree with the behaviors in the book, I do think the situations in the book were described realistically. I just think maybe there was a bit too much on the dark side for it not to be oppressive and veering towards unrealistic.