Title: Anna K
Author: Jenny Lee
Date Published: March 3, 2020
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Date read: May 23, 2020 (reread)
Anna K is a modern young adult retelling of Anna Karenina, and follows the love story between Anna K and Alexia Vronsky, the relationship problems between Steven K and Lolly S, and the heartbreak between Dustin L and Kimmie S.
I first read Anna K just after its release, and I enjoyed it so much so that I felt compelled to pick up Anna Karenina. And then of course reading Anna Karenina made me want to pick up Anna K all over again, so here we are. I do think Anna K is more enjoyable if you’ve read the original source material, but that being said it’s absolutely not necessary. Anna K is a fantastic retelling, and viewed as a love story, was much more successful and compelling than its counterpart Anna Karenina. With Anna K we have all the passions and lust of Anna Karenina but told in a way that is much more believable. I also found that while Lee captured the essence of the original cast, her characters were much more dynamic and likeable than Tolstoy’s. As for plot comparisons, I love that the opening few chapters of Anna K really stayed true to the original story, and found the mirroring of the two scenes extremely clever. The changes Lee made plot wise made perfect sense to the setting of the novel and I enjoyed the liberties she took to narrow down the cast a bit and to modernize the story. I especially liked what Lee did with the ending of her retelling, and it’s an ending that I know will have me either near or in tears every time I read it.
I know this book isn’t going to be for everyone. Anna K has a lot of unpopular elements: cheating, insta-love, and shallow, unlikeable characters, and yet it’s one of my favourite contemporaries. I think a large part of why I was able to overlook the cheating was because without it this really wouldn’t feel like an Anna Karenina retelling, and in Anna K it is so clear to me that Anna and Alexander are not right for each other, yet Anna is in a position where she has a lot of pressure to stay with him. While that doesn’t justify her cheating, it does make it a lot easier to stomach. I also didn’t even think about the fact that this had insta-love until my second read through. The characters falling in love or developing crushes just feels so natural that I didn’t even notice just how quickly these feelings were developing. As for the characters being unlikeable, initially they come across as pretty shallow and selfish, but over time you realize there’s more to each character than meets the eye.
As for the writing, Jenny Lee is a fantastic writer and her style was well suited to the story (I’d love to see her write something else and see how her writing adapts to a different setting). The writing is reminiscent of a tabloid magazine, but I mean that in the best way possible, it really draws you in and it’s easy to digest. My only major complaint is that I wish the main characters had been aged up, and that this was new adult instead of young adult. I don’t know what goes on in the lives of extremely wealthy teenagers, but it would have made the story more believable for me had they been university students instead of high schoolers.
Have you read Anna K? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗