ANNA K. by JENNY LEE
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
I have something to confess to you all, dear readers: I’ve never read Anna Karenina. I was an English major in college and not once did we read that hulking brick of a novel–or even sections of it. However, I know the general gist of the story–and I know it’s quite sad, as Russian novels often are–which explains why Anna K by Jenny Lee completely ruined me. Anna K is a YA retelling of the classic Russian novel by Leo Tolstoy, and while it’s not 800 pages, it’s still devastating to
the very last sentence.
Anna K follows a large cast of characters, the main character being the eponymous Anna K. herself. Anna and her brother, Steven, are half-Korean, living in the upper-rungs of New York City society. The novel follows them and their friends as they navigate the world of the ultra-rich, chronicling all their successes and failures along the way. At the heart of the story, however, is Anna’s love affair with a certain teenage playboy, Alexia Vronsky, known as Count Vronsky to everyone in town. The two fall in love at first sight and the chaos that ensues from there is both over-the-top and completely devastating.
I loved Anna K. Having never read Anna Karenina before, I don’t think it’s necessary to know the original story going in, though it certainly helps. This book is being marketed as Gossip Girl meets Crazy Rich Asians and the comparisons are quite apt. Anna and her friends are mega-rich and they’re always up to something. Cheating, drugs, alcohol, you name is, Anna and her friends do it. However, when Vronsky comes into Anna’s life, things start to pick up. W
hat follows is a whirlwind I couldn’t seem to put down.
Reading Anna K requires a certain suspension of disbelief. If you’re willing to accept these hyper-rich antics for what they are, you’ll have a great time. I can only speak for myself, but this book offered me the kind of escape I was sorely needing since this whole pandemicstarte
d. I was totally carried away by Anna and her friends and their drama. I loved her story with Vronsky and how they were smitten with one another. This book is also surprisingly thoughtful at times, discussing race in relation to class and how all of these things are inextricably twined together.
Told in many points of view, from Anna to her brother to the rest of their friends, Anna K. gives you many sides of the same story, and I liked that we got narration from the whole main cast. Usually I find myself bored with certain storylines if a book as a lot of POV characters, but not with Anna K. Ever POV felt necessary and offered different glimpses into the story as a whole.
While I loved Anna K, readers should note that it contains a lot of drug and alcohol use, as as well as some “mature” content younger teens might now ant to read. Other than that, Anna K is the perfect escape for these deeply imperfect times.