Speaking to a group of Westborough High School sophomores on Tuesday, author Amy King praised the town of Westborough and its community reading program featuring her book Please Ignore Vera Dietz.
“It’s a strong comment that your town is reading together,” she said. “A town that reads together will become more engaged with other things in the community.”
King joined the class of 16 students via Skype from her Pennsylvania kitchen. She was dressed in a casual plaid shirt, propped in front of a counter filled with common kitchen clutter.
Her image was projected on a screen in a third floor classroom at the Forbes Municipal Building. The teens were seated in a circle of tables facing the screen that projected King. It created an intimate setting for conversation, as if everyone was sitting around a large kitchen table.
King, a mother of two young daughters, shared stories of creating her coming of age book. The book is an edgy, contemporary story of Vera Dietz, a high school student whose best friend dies in dark circumstances. The book touches on a number of issues, including death, teen drinking and troubled relationships.
“The original title was Ignore Vera Dietz,” King told the group. “A lot of times when teens have problems, adults tend to ignore it…leaving teens to figure it out for themselves.” She said that her publisher added "please" to the title.
King said the book idea came to her as she was driving through her hometown years ago. “I was listening to OKGo, thinking about a friend that I lost,” she recalled. As she drove by the pizza place where — like the character Vera Dietz — King worked in high school delivering pizzas, the story idea became clear.
“I pulled over into a church parking lot and started writing things down,” she said, “I wrote the book in just 40 days.”
The students, clearly invested in the story, asked her a broad range of questions, including: Will there be a sequel? Will there be a movie? Do you ever go back and read the books you’ve published?
Westborough Public Library Director Maureen Ambrosino together with John Badenhausen, director of Westborough Youth and Family Services, were instrumental in developing the community wide reading program. Ambrosino said that the book, suggested by Westborough High School librarian Anita Celluci, was chosen because it touched on many issues that touch the lives of young adults.
“I’m so happy with the response,” Ambrosino said. “Some said that this book doesn’t reflect what’s going on in the lives of Westborough teens, but the book discussions show that these issues are important to them.”
She said that 300 books were given out in town when the reading program started in November. Many more, she said, have been taken out of the library.
“We wanted something new and relevant,” she added.
The Skype presentation lasted about 45 minutes. When it was over, students were treated to a pizza lunch before having a book discussion led by Superintendent Maryanne O’Connor.
The students are all part of an English class taught jointly by teachers Kathy Stoker and Molly Lonergan. Lonergan told Westborough Patch that the book touches on issues that are important to this age group.
She said she was struck by how candid the students are in discussions and how respectful and supportive they are of each other. “It’s amazing how invested they are in it.”
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