Set against the backdrop of a decaying Pacific Northwest lumber town, Vera Violet is a debut that explores poverty, violence, and environmental degradation as played out in the young lives of a group of close-knit friends.
Peterson builds a class consciousness between poor rural whites and disenfranchised people of color living in urban areas. The novel offers no easy solutions but rather delves into the psychology of poverty and the vicious cycles that come with trying to survive. There's no preaching. Instead, Peterson brings life to a host of memorable characters whose struggles are seared into readers' brains. Vera Violet announces the arrival of a new writer who is comfortable with her craft and knows how to relay a story in vivid and affecting detail. Vera Violet packs a powerful punch.
... the markings of white supremacy are on Vera and her voyeuristic white gaze. [The way] Peterson writes of Vera’s experience listening to her students’ stories...is troubling—vague, with no concrete detail about who these children are, and fraught with the power inherent to whiteness. While realistic, it’s unclear whether the author intends for the reader to see this as problematic ... Vera Violet is poetic in its description of how capitalist society fails the poor ... The sense of place in the novel is palpable, the treatment of its characters empathetic and complex. Violence and grief saturate the forest of these words. The mosaic of Vera’s world is dark, but so is capitalism, which facilitates poverty and oppression. Vera Violet is a compelling read from a potent new voice.
Each chapter reads as a vignette, similar to Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street, but with more despair ... Peterson's debut offers a realistic look at drug-riddled, poverty-stricken towns and lives yet is a difficult read, occasionally overwritten with near-constant metaphors and incredible sadness.