Anna K (Hardcover)
A Love Story
Flatiron Books, 9781250236432, 400pp.
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
A national indie bestseller! Meet Anna K: every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way...
At seventeen, Anna K 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, 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.
About the Author
Praise For Anna K: A Love Story…
Named a must-read book of 2020 by Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, HelloGiggles, BuzzFeed, PopSugar, Bustle, BookPage, and more!
National indie bestseller
Marie Claire Book Club selection
Book of the Month Club selection
A SkimmReads Pick
In development as a TV series with HBO Max
“A timeless tale of how much we’re willing to sacrifice for love.” —Teen Vogue
“A modern take on Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Anna K is a Gossip Girl meets Big Little Lies tale of wealth, privilege, love, and loss with lots of designer labels.” —GoodMorningAmerica.com
“This innovative retelling illustrates the push and pull of first love.” —Time
“Lee’s version of Anna Karenina, tweaked and updated for today’s teens, makes for addictive reading.” —BookPage, starred review
“You'll be hard-pressed to find a YA that captures the Gossip Girl vibe as well as this debut, and you know B would approve of the fact that it takes its inspiration from classic literature!” —BuzzFeed
“A slow-burn epic tale of love in modern-day Manhattan high society.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A fresh and wickedly smart take on a classic story. Anna is even more scandalously fun now, in the age of stilettos and social media, than she was in 19th century Russia. I couldn’t put this one down!” —Katharine McGee, author of American Royals
“A little bit Crazy Rich Asians and a little bit Gossip Girl, Anna K is a smart, crafty, and utterly engrossing story about love, addiction, mental health, and what it truly means to be a teenager.” —Isabella Ogbolumani, Page 1 Books, Evanston, IL
“Tolstoy meets Gossip Girl? Xoxo to that! A clever romp that is both delicious, scandalous, prep school drama and sly commentary on wealth, relationships, upper crust society and more, Anna K is loads of fun as Jenny Lee spins Anna Karenina (and that infamous train scene) into a contemporary drama that had me madly and delightedly turning pages.” —Joy Preble, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX
“Imagine Gossip Girl and Anna Karenina collided and in that split second, their collision formed a high-drama, superbly compelling story—that’s what Anna K. is. Anna and company are mesmerizing and will keep your eyes glued to the pages until the very end.” —Rachel Strolle, Glenside Public Library District, Glenside Heights, IL
“It’s difficult to imagine a lofty tome like Anna Karenina turned into a teen drama extravaganza, but Lee manages it with aplomb, giving heart and heat to Anna K.” —Sami Thomason, Square Books, Oxford, MS
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Discuss the novel’s first line: “Every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way.” What do you think the author means? Do you agree?
2. Although the novel is called Anna K and she is arguably the main character, each chapter alternates between the perspectives of six different characters and features an even larger cast of friends and family. Did you have a favorite character in the novel? If so, why were you particularly drawn to her or him?
3. Anna K is a modern reimagining of a nineteenth-century Russian novel: Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. If you were already familiar with Anna Karenina, did Anna K make you think about it in a different way? Why do you think there are so many adaptations of classics, from Shakespeare’s plays to Jane Austen’s novels? Do you think it’s ever possible to write a truly new and original story, or is every story a kind of retelling?
4. There are three main teen love stories in these pages: Anna and Vronsky, Lolly and Steven, and Kimmie and Dustin. How are each of these relationships similar and different? What obstacles do each couple have to overcome?
5. In addition to romantic relationships, there are sibling relationships and platonic friendships at the heart of Anna K. Compare and contrast these different kinds of bonds, using examples from the novel. In your experience, can the relationships between siblings and friends be just as powerful and important as romantic relationships?
6. The novel begins with Lolly finding out that Steven cheated on her, and Anna coming in to do damage control. Later, Anna cheats on Alexander with Vronsky. How is Anna’s cheating different from and similar to Steven’s? Did you feel sorry for Alexander? Can cheating ever be justified?
7. When she and Kimmie are discussing Steven’s cheating, Anna says, “I know it sounds like I’m making excuses for their thoughtless stupidity, but I’m not. I’m just saying boys and girls couldn’t be more different in their wants and behaviors. And when you throw in raging hormones and mix it up with emotions, it’s a wonder we don’t all go mad.” Do you agree? Is there something inherently different in the way that teenage boys and girls think about relationships? How does the novel confirm or undermine that generalization?
8. Wealth and status play a major role in the characters’ lives. How are their identities shaped by their parents’ money and the expectations that come along with it? How do you think their privilege influences the choices they make?
9. Discuss the role race plays in the novel. Although most of their friends are white, Anna and Steven are Korean American, and Dustin and Murph are black. Are the characters of color shaped by her or his racial identity? If so, how? Do they face any particular challenges, in terms of societal and familial expectations?
10. When Anna learns about the way Vronsky treated Kimmie, she is angry and devastated, but she ultimately forgives him. Did you forgive him? Did you believe it was possible for him to truly mend his ways and treat Anna better than all the other girls he had been with?
11. Were you surprised to learn that it was Eleanor who released the sex tape? Did you have a different theory of who did it?
12. When Anna overhears two girls disparaging her in the Lincoln Center bathroom, she is devastated: “They call me a whore. They think I deserve everything I get. They hate me. I’ve disgraced my family. I’ve disgraced myself. No one will ever love me again. I’m damaged goods, the inherent vice of high society.” Why do you think she feels that way? Discuss the double standard for girls and boys, as reflected by the fallout of the sex tape for Vronsky and Anna. Do you think that double standard is prevalent across our society?
13. After the scandal, Anna’s father tells her he is taking her to South Korea, so she can finish high school at a famous girls’ school in Seoul. Do you think a change of scenery is a good idea for Anna? Will it give her a chance to start over, or does it feel like she is running away?
14. In the epilogue, at Track 27, Natalia tells Anna: “She now gets to live her whole life knowing some boy loved her so much that he died for her! I mean, if that’s not power, then I don’t know what is. She can be like a superhero with magical love powers or something, you know?” Do you think she is right? How are love and loss entwined in this novel?
15. How do the six main characters change over the course of the novel, and what triggers their most significant changes? How much do you think you changed during high school?
16. Anna K will have a sequel, set over the following summer. What do you think the future holds for each of the characters?