A Teen Reimagining of Betrayal and Scandal in Manhattan Society


Anna K Book Review

At seventeen, Anna K is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers horses to people). Her boyfriend, Alexander W., is perfect; her vivacious little sister, Kimmie, has a promising ice dancing career; and her best friend, Dustin, is madly (if one-sidedly) in love with her.


Anna K is a modern day retelling of Tolstoy’s classic about love, scandal, and betrayal. Jenny Lee does an excellent job of updating the story for teens. The book is full of betrayal, family drama, partying, drug use, and a major tragedy.

The book’s main character, Anna, is a seventeen-year-old socialite from Greenwich, Connecticut. She attends a prestigious prep school and is a skilled equestrian. She has the perfect reputation and the perfect boyfriend, Alexander. But her life is turned upside down when she meets Count Vronsky.

The novel features a diverse cast of characters, including Anna’s Korean-American father and her older brother Steven, as well as interracial couple Kimmie and Dustin. The novel also discusses issues that teens face, such as peer pressure and the dangers of substance abuse. Families can talk about these issues and how they relate to the story. There is also an emphasis on the importance of loving animals. This is a great book for teenagers who are fans of Gossip Girl and Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

The characters

There’s betrayal, family drama, hard partying, a sex tape and major tragedy in this teen reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s classic. But is it a cheesy, sexy romance about forbidden love or a tragic tale of alienation and repression? Jenny Lee tries to make both, but she clings to the Tolstoy story so tightly that avoidable plot-holes arise. For example, trains play a key role in the story, but casually taking a train in modern America isn’t that common.

Seventeen-year-old Anna K is the golden girl of Greenwich and Manhattan society, but she falls prey to Vronsky while juggling her partying brother Steven’s cheating girlfriend Lolly and his tutor Dustin’s crush on Kimmie. She’s also struggling to please her demanding father, while trying to recalibrate her life after an injury derails her ice dancing career. But will she find a way to figure out who she really is? Despite the annoying sexual stereotypes and a few scenes that lean into stereotypes about race, social standing and wealth, Anna K is a teen drama with heart.

The writing

The story is opulent, sensual and often sensational. A reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless classic, it follows the lives of high-society teens whose drama unfolds against lush backdrops in Greenwich and Manhattan.

With her perfect Harvard boyfriend and pristine reputation, 17-year-old Anna Kim appears to have it all. But when her brother, Steven, enlists her help in smoothing over his rift with his girlfriend, Lolly, she drops everything to head back to NYC.

In the city, Anna is introduced to Count Vronsky – a sultry playboy with a troubled past who is immediately smitten with her. Meanwhile, Lolly is struggling with her own cheating scandal and Steven’s tutor, Dustin, is falling head-over-heels for the girl he once taught. Interconnected, these characters’ choices and consequences make for jaw-dropping drama that is equal parts Gossip Girl and Anna Karenina.

The ending

From Jenny Lee, the bestselling author of four humor essay collections and two middle grade novels, comes this wickedly smart teen reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless classic.

Seventeen-year-old Anna K has it all: her family’s country home in Greenwich, CT; a perfect boyfriend; and a burgeoning reputation at Manhattan’s most exclusive prep school. She’s the envy of her peers, and she makes her Korean-American father proud.

But when her older brother Steven needs her help smoothing over a sexting scandal with his girlfriend, Lolly, Anna decides to head up to Manhattan to assist. There, she encounters the brash and irrepressible Alexia Vronsky—and while she knows her wisest move would be to return to Greenwich, pursuing their affair could devastate more than her reputation. Then there’s her vivacious younger sister Kimmie, who’s madly in love with her new boyfriend Dustin. The intoxicating romances, betrayal, and heartbreak that fuel this satirical drama are sure to please fans of Gossip Girl and Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

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