February 29, 2020
Review: Anna K.
Anna K. by Jenny Lee
Release date: March 3, 2020
An e-galley was provided by Macmillan via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I'm a sucker for YA retellings of classic literature, especially when they venture away from the usual Austen and Shakespeare fodder (though I love those equally as much). Anna K. should have been right up my alley, but unfortunately, it wasn't.
The book felt like chapter after chapter of sex, drinking, drugs, and cheating. Obviously cheating is a significant part of Anna Karenina, but the rest was just too much. None of the narrative voices sounded distinct, and the characters lived such vapid, ridiculous lives. I don't think a single scene was actually set in a classroom. The author really should've just written this as an adult retelling, if she was going to write such unrealistic teenage characters. Kimmie (the Kitty character) was perhaps the most teenager-y, but even her plot felt forced and like she was just going through the motions of being a character in a book.
I just felt so tired by the end of the book. I wondered the whole time, if Lee would stick to the original ending or not. I won't spoil that in this review (in the comments, maybe if someone asks), but I will say I just felt so flippant about the ending. It happened, and I was the epitome of the shrug emoji.
Content warnings: on-page sex, underage drinking, drug usage, depression, references to self-harm, microaggressions, classism, plenty of swearing
The Verdict: Should not have been YA.