Anna K.: A Love Story by Jenny Lee is a unique retelling of the classic Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. There are multiple perspectives and a lot of drama in this book that explores whether true love exists. Keep reading to learn more about the book and read my interview with the author of Anna K., Jenny Lee.Title: Anna K.: A Love Story
Author: Jenny Lee
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way.
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.
Dazzlingly opulent and emotionally riveting, Anna K.: A Love Story 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.
❃ I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. ❃
Book Review: Anna K.: A Love Story by Jenny Lee
While I have not yet had the opportunity to read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, it is one that I have had on my list for quite some time. Jenny Lee’s Anna K. is a unique reimagining of the original story and has sparked my interest to to check it out. It is definitely a story that has no shortage of intriguing characters and teen angst.
❀ Multiple Perspectives, Opulent, and Tragic
There are quite a few points of view and a large cast of characters in Anna K. that are well-heeled and living in opulence. It is a lifestyle that makes the story entertaining to read, as the characters host lavish parties and shop for items that are fashionable and over-priced. However, the flip-side to the story are the inescapable tragedies many of these teens face. Themes such as first love, mental health, and the effects of drug use are explored in the book.
Fans of Crazy Rich Asians and Gossip Girl are sure to enjoy this whirlwind of a love story. The original concept and compelling characters make for a thought-provoking read. That being said, I would recommend this book to an upper YA audience, as the content can be quite graphic at times.
Interview with Jenny Lee, author of Anna K.
How did you come up with the idea to create a retelling of Anna Karenina?
Anna Karenina has always been one of my favorite books. I’ve read it 3 times at different points in my life, first when I was in high school. In 2012 I saw the Keira Knightly movie adaptation in New York City during Christmas time. I walked out of the theater with my mom and we talked about the movie and the book… and then later that night I had a light bulb moment where I realized it’d be a great YA novel, because in the original all the characters are falling in love for the very first time (in the late 1800s in Russia), but in modern times first loves usually happen when you’re a teenager.
Best piece of advice that has helped your career?
As a writer you often hear people say, “Write what you know.” But that always seemed odd to me, because the best part of writing fiction is the freedom to create characters and stories from your own imagination. But what I now have realized this means is you need to write from a personal place. My best work always comes from my latest obsessions… I’m obsessed with my Newfoundland dog, Gemma, and in Anna K, Anna has two Newfoundland dogs, and one of them is named Gemma. (The other dog is totally made up. See? It’s the best of both worlds.)
How do you balance a busy career as a writer and TV producer and time for yourself?
I don’t. Ha ha. I’m working on getting better at putting my writing aside and making sure I spend time living my life (seeing friends, traveling, playing games at Dave & Busters with my husband, etc.). It’s hard for me because I have a workaholic tendencies, but what I have learned is that whenever I take a break, I notice I’m more productive and more inspired.
Are there any characters in your novel that resemble anyone in your own life?
There are many details from my own life that I gave to various characters. Steven loves sneakers like my husband does. Lolly goes to Soul Cycle like I should do more. Dustin was named after a real-life Dustin in my life and they are both big film buffs. Sometimes when I see a purse or fashion item I want (but can’t afford!) I put it in the hands of one of my characters, so I can live vicariously through their fictional shopping habits!
Anna K. has a theme of girl power and changing the way women are perceived in our society. Has there ever been a time in your life/career where you have had to stand up for yourself?
There are a lot of changes going on in Hollywood when it comes to female writers (especially POC) and I am very vocal about advocating for women in the industry. I am not shy, and I make sure to always speak out in a writers’ room to make sure female characters are fairly represented on the screen. I also buy tickets to all female helmed films for opening weekend (even if I can’t go) because I want to show my support whenever possible.
Describe your novel in 3 words
Romantic. Tragic. Female-empowered! (I hyphenated that last one, so it counts!)
Thank you so much to Jenny Lee for taking the time to answer my questions! Also, special thanks to Melissa at Raincoast Books for organizing this interview and providing me an opportunity to read an early copy of Anna K. Lastly, a huge shout-out to Milana from A Couple Reads for gifting her TeensRead prize to me.