In her decadent young adult debut, Jenny Lee offers up a retelling of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless novel, Anna Karenina, that is aptly titled Anna K.: A Love Story. This tragic and beautiful novel shares a group of teens’ experiences with first loves and heartbreaks.
At seventeen, Anna K. 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 a 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.
Let me start off by saying I’ve never read Anna Karenina, nor have I ever seen a movie adaptation of it. So in terms of accuracy to Tolstoy’s original text, I can’t really speak on that matter. However, as it’s own story I found it detailed, engaging, and wonderfully written. This haunting beautiful novel shows that love and loss are sometimes two sides of the same coin.
I really enjoyed the setting of high New York and Greenwich society! The Gossip Girl-esque tone helped set the story apart from other YA novels and gave readers a glimpse into how another sect of people live. Even though this 1% is experiencing events and parties like no one else can, all of the characters are strangely relatable and fun to read about. Lee’s fluid POV style of writing helped keep this lengthy novel moving at a faster pace so it wouldn’t get bogged down by frivolous details and super minor characters.
I will also admit that I really found almost all of the characters to be likable in some way, shape, or form. Even though they all hit rough patches at some point in the novel, they lean on the other people in their lives together through the bad times and put into perspective what truly matters. That even when all hope seems gone, love can sometimes shine a light on the darkest of moments.
There are a lot of references to modern pop culture and uses of current teen lingo so if you find that annoying to read, then maybe skip this book. I found it to be funny and thought it reaffirmed the idea that this is a modern retelling and what it’s like living in this day and age of social media and weird, cultural phrases.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and I think it branches out from its YA description into a story that anyone would enjoy! While it does lean on the more mature side of YA literature, Anna K. is a story that will enthrall and fascinate any kind of reader and will definitely stay fresh in my mind for a long time.
Hi! My name is Elisa and my bookshelf is quite literally overflowing! Join me in my journey of reading as many books as humanly possible!