Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: June 30, 2015
Source/Format: NetGalley (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this novel from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.]
Fifteen-year-old orphan Ana Cortez has just blown her last chance with a foster family. It’s a group home next—unless she agrees to leave East Los Angeles for a farm trainee program in Northern California.
When she first arrives, Ana can’t tell a tomato plant from a blackberry bush, and Emmett Garber is skeptical that this slight city girl can be any help on his farm. His sister Abbie, however, thinks Ana might be just what they need. Ana comes to love Garber Farm, and even Emmett has to admit that her hard work is an asset. But when she inadvertently stirs up trouble in town, Ana is afraid she might have ruined her last chance at finding a place to belong.
There’s nothing that gets my attention quicker than hearing a novel is inspired by or comparable to a favorite. I saw that Ana of California was mentioned in the same breath as Anne of Green Gables, and my decision to read it was instantaneous. Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite classics, and I was curious to see what elements or themes would receive nods in Teran’s novel. And the end result is this: Ana of California, a fast-paced, engaging debut novel with familiar elements incorporated into an original story.
(Before I go any further, I should mention that my experience reading Ana of California was definitely affected by my love for Anne of Green Gables. I could pick up on particular similarities in character, setting and theme, and often found myself comparing the two novels, though I tried hard to be objective in my opinions.)
I did enjoy reading Ana of California. In particular, these are the things I liked:
- Setting: The novel is set in a small town in California, where farming still happens to be the primary way of making a living. Teran makes it come alive with vivid descriptions and clever details, and I really wanted to visit (particularly during festival time, which sounds really fun). Heck, she even managed to make Ana’s chores as she works on the farm sound fun!
- Ana: Ana is a kindred spirit to Anne, sharing her emotional vibrancy, dreamy nature and determination to make the most of the situation she’s in. Her cultural heritage and her history are what make her unique; I honestly wish that both had been featured a little more.
- Abbie: It really is quite difficult to not love Abbie. She’s a good-natured lady, one who makes room in her home and heart for Ana. I loved her involvement in the farm, particularly in the cooking, but I also liked seeing her fun-loving side too.
There are other things that need to be mentioned about Ana of California, even if they weren’t exactly my cup of tea, including:
- Secondary plots: Apart from the main plot that follows Ana and her journey to find a place she belongs, there are other things going on. Friendships being formed, talents being discovered and embraced, budding romance (which I wasn’t a huge fan of, if I’m being completely honest). It’s compelling to try and follow each one, but I do feel like there was a slight lack of depth and development.
- Emmett & Cole: These guys are the two most important male presences in Ana’s life, and yet, they didn’t leave all that much of an impression. Readers basically only get to see one side of Emmett, and barely any interactions between him and Ana. On the other hand, Cole and Ana have many encounters, and readers learn a bit about Cole, but it’s not consistently interesting or charming, in my opinion. There’s certainly potential for both, but I feel like it could have been fleshed out further.
In spite of my reservations, I actually still did find Ana of California to be a solid debut. It held my attention from start to finish, as well as bringing me joy whenever I saw a nod to an element from the original story that inspired it. If you’re looking for a new spin on an old classic, Ana of California is definitely an option you should consider giving a shot.
And thanks to the lovely people at Penguin Books, one of you has the chance to win a copy of Ana of California! This giveaway is US ONLY, open to entries from individuals 13 and up. Just use the Rafflecopter form to enter.