Friday, February 28, 2020

Review: Anna K.

Anna K.
Jenny Lee
Expected publication date: March 3, 2020
Every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way.

Meet Anna K. At seventeen, she is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and Newfoundland dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W.; and she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a little controlling). Meanwhile, Anna's brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather an sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie.

As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna always seems to be able to sail gracefully above it all. That is…until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central. A notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure, Alexia is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexia and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go for the chance to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to question if she has ever known herself at all.

Dazzlingly opulent and emotionally riveting, Anna K.: A Love Story is a brilliant reimagining of Leo Tolstoy's timeless love story, Anna Karenina―but above all, it is a novel about the dizzying, glorious, heart-stopping experience of first love and first heartbreak. - from Goodreads
I received this book for free from Goodreads Giveaways.

Anna Karenina was one of the few books I read "for fun" while I was in college.  I remember sitting in the student center on a Friday night getting swept away in Tolstoy's epic love story.  When I heard about this modern retelling, set in NYC high society and from the point of view of teenagers, I was immediately intrigued.  Although some things worked, I also had some issues with this one.

Cons:
  • Unfortunately, I didn't think the writing was anything spectacular.  It felt really stilted at times.
  • It was really hard for me to connect to the characters.  These teenagers have access to so much money and drugs, and throw elaborate parties just for the hell of it.  There was never enough parental supervision.  While I don't doubt that there's a certain segment of the population that lives like this, it was just very hard for me to like many of the characters.
  • Although the idea of aging down the original characters is good in theory, in some ways it didn't work.  Vronsky seemed a little too young for the amount of experience he purports to have.  At 16, he's had almost more partners than he can count, and yet when he meets Anna, suddenly he is a changed and devoted man.  I can relate to being young and in love and feeling like you're the only two people in the world, but from the outside, it sometimes doesn't ring totally true.
Pros:
  • At the beginning of the book, I didn't really care for Anna.  She seemed aloof and way too mature for her age.  She's in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend and it seems like her whole life is already planned out for her.  But when she meets Vronsky, she becomes a whole new person, someone I liked a lot more - happier and more spontaneous.  I liked the way Vronsky brought out the best in her.
  • Steven, Anna's brother, was one of my favorite characters.  Although I could have done without all the drug use, I loved the relationship he and Anna have.  He would do anything for his sister, and he also seemed sincerely remorseful after cheating on his girlfriend, Lolly.  He was a fun guy that also had a big heart.
  • The original story is quite long and filled with insights on the politics and culture of the time.  Lee was able to hit the highlights of the original without getting bogged down in too much detail.  It was easy to see the parallels and inspiration and in many ways the modernization felt effortless.  
  • Although there were many gossipy, teenage drama-filled moments, Lee also didn't shy away from tough subjects like addiction and death.  
3.5 stars

20 comments:

  1. I’ve seen a few mixed reviews of this book now. I don’t know if I want to read it, but I definitely want to read Anna Karenina.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. If I were you, I would skip this one and just read the original!

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  2. I have to admit that I would probably have a tough time relating to these characters, too, based on your description of them. But it sounds like an interesting retelling of a classic.

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  3. Isn't it weird how much we liked Steven? I mean, he was caught cheating right in the beginning of the book, but I ending up really liking him too. I read books (and watch shows) like this with the fascination of an outsider, and know I won't connect with these characters too much. Though, the idea of love and family obligations can translate across socioeconomic boarders.

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    1. Yes, I was really glad for that great sibling relationship! Steven did some dumb things, but you could tell he was remorseful, too.

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  4. Aw, I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this one more! The characters definitely seem a bit over the top. I'd have trouble with that too. I'm glad it wasn't all bad though!

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  5. Ah, this sounds similar to another book I read recently. There was so much centered around drugs and sex and the main character was only 14!

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  6. Wow I've never heard of an Anna Karenina retelling! It's unfortunate about the writing, though. But I do like that the author managed to capture the insights and themes of the original novel.

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    1. Yes, I think she did a great job with that!

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  7. Lovely review, Angela! I've been eyeing this one for a little while now, as it sounds like the kind of contemporary read I'd enjoy, despite not being familiar with the original story. Thank you so much for the enlightening review! :D

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    1. Thanks so much, Marie! I hope you enjoy it!

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  8. It's nice that the author was able to hit some of the highlights of the original, as you point out, without getting too bogged down. I imagine that can be a challenge to do. Glad this one had some good moments in spite of the issues!

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  9. I never realized this was an Anna Karenina retelling. I'm really intrigued by that since I read the original for fun as well when I was younger. As intrigued as I am though, I'm probably going to pass. I think the writing and not being able to connect with the characters would be an issue for me as well. I'm having a hard time imagining the characters being so much younger than they were in the original.

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    1. I can understand that! It was really hard to reconcile the updated Vronsky character with the original, especially.

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  10. I think that you have made a lot of great points about this one! Steven definitely grew on me in a surprising way. It has definitely intrigued me to give the original a try. :)

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    1. Thank you! I hope you enjoy the original!

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I'm so glad you stopped by, and I would love to hear your thoughts! Comments are always greatly appreciated!