This was originally in a Two Book Tuesday post, but as I was writing it got so long that it deserved its own entry.
I was lucky enough to be approved for the ARC on NetGalley, then the book showed up on Book of the Month for February and got it for my monthly pick (BTW if you’re in the US, I highly recommend BOTM).
Title: Anna K.
Author: Jenny Lee
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: March 3rd, 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.
Anna Karenina has been on my shelf for a few years now, but I’ve always been turned off from the length. Coming in at just under a 1,000 pages, it is a chunky, chunky boy. Jenny Lee has modernized this beloved Russian classic, setting it in Manhattan and Greenwich, CT, with a diverse group of characters.
I loved this book so much. It reads very much like an adult novel with young adult protagonists. The writing was on a maturity level more consistent with adult literary fiction, like The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This should at least be labeled New Adult or have a content warning for age 15/16+. This will be a polarizing and controversial read for a lot of people—they’ll either love it or be completely turned off.
Back when I believed in the phrase “guilty pleasure,” I was binge watching Gossip Girl. It was so entertaining and you better believe I was, and still am, a hardcore Chuck/Blair fan. I love the drama—this unattainable lifestyle where teens are moving through the Upper East Side in their designer clothes and last night’s hangover. It is unbelievably watchable. Drugs, sex, alcohol, and money run rampant through the lives of Manhattan’s elite.
All that can also be said for the characters of Anna K—though they are a little less reprehensible. You would think rich teens would be vapid assholes if you listened basically all of what we’ve seen in pop culture, but this cast of characters shared a great deal of depth, while sometimes still being vapid assholes. Of course they make mistakes, some insensitive and discouraging, but they redeem themselves and develop into better people. Truly, the parents were more deplorable than the teens.
Lee includes a character list at the beginning of the book, giving names, ages, relationship connections, and schools. It was daunting to see at first, but Lee does a really terrific job of transitioning between different character perspectives seamlessly despite the novel being told in third person. I absolutely adored the relationships throughout the story—Anna and her brother Steven were such a great sibling pairing, one of the best I’ve read in a long time. I just wanted to hug Steven’s friend Dustin! I honestly could go on and on about this book!
And I just read that it’s going to be a TV series! Jenny Lee is writing it, which makes sense since she’s a TV writer. I really want this to be great.
If you like more mature YA contemporary that reads more like NA/Adult, I urge you to pick this up.
Sex, drugs, drug abuse, alcohol, cheating, death of a loved one
ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.