Today, I’m reviewing the utterly addictive Anna K, which I was lucky enough to win an ARC of, so thank you so much to Harriet Venn and Penguin.
Trigger warnings: drug use, animal death, death of a loved one, grief, cheating, depression, suicidal ideation, alcohol, self-harm, racism and revenge porn
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 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 an 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.
This was such a sumptuous read, full of brilliant characters and it was fascinating to sneak a peek at the opulent life of the elite.
I must admit, I’ve never read Anna Karenina, but Anna K makes me want to! It was a lovely modern reimagining of a classic romance that I was really rooting for. The chemistry between Anna and Alexia was so explosive on the page, despite everything. However, it does involve cheating, which is pretty much the dominant theme of the book and I really liked the discussion around this and forgiveness. Lee particularly draws attention to the gendered double standards around cheating in a really thought-provoking way. Similarly, the story involves a lot of drug use, but discusses this in a nuanced and considered way.
Any time a book promises to examine the elite, I’m drawn to it and Anna K delves into the seedy underbelly behind the dazzling facades. Exploring the darker facets of privilege and how it intersected with racism and culture made this such an interesting book, prompting me to really re-examine my initial thoughts. Through the story, Lee discusses different aspects of racism and classism in a brilliant way. It is smart, but playful and bittersweet at the same time.
There’s quite a large cast of characters, but they all felt distinctive and had their own voice. They all had their own stories to tell as part of the larger narrative and I liked how we got to see at least a snippet of their perspective through the narration. Lee kept me rooting for each of them and going through a emotional journey that showed their growth and sheer presence on the page.
Thank you again to Penguin Random House and Harriet for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.