February 24, 2020

Blog Tour Review: Anna K.

I only really knew three things about Anna K. prior to reading it. One, it draws inspiration from Anna Karenina, hence the (abbreviated) title and the character names. Two, it was being compared to Crazy Rich Asians and Gossip Girl, which are two media properties that I love. Three, the writing in this story might not appeal to all readers, which I heard from my friends Rachel and Bethany.

I was surprised, in a good way, to discover that I couldn't stop reading Anna K. once I started reading it, and that I didn't have any difficulties diving right in and just letting the story carry me along. There's something particularly escapist, a horrifying fascination of sorts, if you will, to bear witness to these very privileged characters making terrible decisions that are likely to end badly.

The characters, who are a diverse cast (in terms of race, sexuality, and privilege), are complicated individuals who often make ill-advised choices. They live in a world where everything is handed to them on a platinum platter - money is no object, wild parties with copious amounts of copulation, drugs and alcohol are the norm, and parental neglect and expectations are high. In some ways, these characters call to mind modern celebrities or influencers - they appear incredibly golden and perfect in terms of what they present to the world, but underneath that sheen are complex individuals who are struggling to make sense of themselves, as well as the people and the world around them. While it's hard to be 100% sympathetic to their struggles (particularly when their privilege took center stage), it's also impossible to not feel any sympathy at all.

Anna K. certainly does not hold back on its portrayal of infidelity, drug use, and sex. There are multiple instances of all three in the story, which provided an interesting perspective on why these individuals are involved in these scenarios and how they arrived there in the first place. There's no judgment, simply a statement of facts - this is how they get there, this is what they believed, this is why they end up making the choices they did and this is what happens as a result. As I mentioned earlier, it is difficult to feel for these characters since most of them actively make the decisions (ranging from bad to absolutely terrible) on their own. But Lee somehow manages to make sure that you recognize that each situation has its own unique circumstances, and that somehow makes it possible to feel just a touch of sympathy and understanding for the characters involved.

Anna K. isn't going to be a story for every reader, but it was a story that almost immediately reeled me in. There are a number of reasons that I couldn't put it down: it was a train wreck tale I couldn't look away from, it felt escapist to read about people that led lives so different from mine and the pace just picks up as the story goes on until you have to know what happens next. Though this is a story filled with (mostly) morally grey characters and bad choices all around, and while I hesitate to say I "enjoyed" it, it definitely managed to snare and keep my attention till the end.

Anna K: A Love Story by Jenny Lee will be published March 3, 2020 by Flatiron Books.
I received an ARC from the publisher for review. All opinions in this post are my own.

Book Summary:
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 dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend; and she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a bit controlling). Meanwhile, Anna's brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather a sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is recalibrating 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 teenage life, Anna always seems to sail gracefully above it all. That is, until the night she meets Alexi “Count” Vronsky. A notorious playboy, Alexi is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t either. As Alexi and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to ask if she has ever known herself at all.

Dazzlingly opulent and emotionally riveting, Anna K 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.

About the Author:
Jenny Lee is a television writer and producer who has worked on BET’s Boomerang, IFC’s Brockmire, Freeform’s Young & Hungry, and the Disney Channel’s number-one-rated kids' show, Shake It Up. Jenny is the author of four humor essay collections and two middle grade novels. Anna K: A Love Story is her debut YA novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 135-pound Newfoundland, Gemma (and yes, it’s a toss-up on who's walking who every day). Instagram: @jennyleewrites


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