Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Annexed by Sharon Dogar

Annexed by Sharon Dogar. Grades 8 and up. Houghton Mifflin, October 2010. Reviewed from ARC snagged at BEA. 320 pages.

It's 1942 and Europe is at war. For the Jewish van Pels family, this war means almost-certain death and they have no choice but to go into hiding with another family, the Franks. For sixteen-year-old Peter van Pels, sharing a tiny space with seven other people, this means no privacy. It means that he has to sit around instead of going to fight like a man. And it means he has to put up with Anne, a thirteen-year-old chatterbox who's constantly writing about him in her diary. As the years wear on, Peter and Anne become friends... and then maybe something more. What was life like for Peter in the Annex?

Sharon Dogar's come under some fire for writing this novel, a fictionalized speculation about what Peter may have gone through in the secret annex during World War II. We know many of Anne Frank's thoughts - they're meticulously documented in her diary - but what of Peter? How did he feel, trapped in the annex, as life Outside continued without him, as more of his friends disappeared, as people starved in the street?

Okay, let me start by saying that Peter and Anne do not have sex. Yes, they start to care for each other. Yes, they steal moments together, some of which are intimate. And yes, Peter has sexual desires. But Peter and Anne don't go farther than a kiss. Read Sharon Dogar's response to the articles about her novel.

Now, that's out of the way. I thought Ms. Dogar did a fantastic job with this novel.

No doubt that this is a massive undertaking. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl is a book that people cherish. It's beloved by so many, you can bet that Ms. Dogar didn't enter into this project lightly. And it's obvious she's done her research.

The tone of the book was spot-on. Peter ruminates on his feelings of helplessness as he hides while others outside fight. He's frustrated and depressed, obsessed with thoughts about the girl he left behind - a girl who was taken away. As I read it, I felt compelled to grab my copy of Anne's diary and follow along to see what Anne was thinking at different points in the story.

I think this book will appeal to the many teens who are fascinated by Anne's diary. I don't know if it would work as well for someone who hadn't read Anne's book. (But that's hard for me to judge since I have read Anne's diary. I'd be interested to know if the book would make sense to someone who didn't know Anne's part.)

I mean, it's just fascinating. Obviously, we can't know exactly what Peter van Pels was thinking during his time in the attic. But Ms. Dogar's done her research and carefully crafted this book that explores what might have been going through his head. I think it's an excellent work and adds much to the selection of YA literature available today.

Read more reviews at Good Books & Good Wine, Insert Book Title Here, and Yay! Reads.

Annexed will be on shelves October 4.