“A fresh and wickedly smart take on a classic story. Anna is even more scandalously fun now, in the age of stilettos and social media, than she was in 19th century Russia. I couldn’t put this one down.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
If I had to sum this book up in just three words I would say its frenetic, frivolous fun. Anna K by Jenny Lee takes the beloved classic, Anna Karenina, and updates it for the modern age, with a Young Adult spin. Set in a world of privilege , the book follows a group of well off teens from New York’s Upper East Side. The Anna K of the title knows all the rules of the society world she lives in, the right school, the right social circle and above all the right guy, a clean cut future senator. She strives for perfection in everything, but her perfect world is thrown off axis when she encounters the charming Alexia Vronsky, a notorious playboy who quickly bewitches her.
As well as Anna we follow the stories of several other members of her social circle, including her brother Stephen and his girlfriend Lolly plus his tutor and childhood friend Dustin who comes from a more normal background and is often taken aback by the excess of his more well off friend.
While the book is definitely fun, it is not afraid to tackle some difficult issues, and ones that are particularly relevant to teens today, including a leaked sex tape and issues with substance abuse, consent and infidelity. It tackles these issues with sensitivity and for that I applaud the author. I also liked that Anna was a mixed-race character, half Korean and half WASP and that aspects of her cultural heritage were brought into the story.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the book is pretty fast moving, we are rapidly introduced to a whole clutch of characters, and that took a little time to get my head around, but as the story progressed it became much easier to keep track of who is who and how they relate to one another. I did feel like it was a little bit of overkill to keep describing every designer outfit by label, the reader knows these kids are rich, but that really is a very minor quibble about a book I enjoyed very much.
I can imagine fans of Crazy Rich Asians or Gossip Girl enjoying this very much, and it’s a book that I know I will read again.
Added 27th April 2020