Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Review: Annexed

Book Review: Annexed by Sharon Dogar

Goodreads Description: Everyone knows about Anne Frank and her life hidden in the secret annex – but what about the boy who was also trapped there with her?

In this powerful and gripping novel, Sharon Dogar explores what this might have been like from Peter’s point of view. What was it like to be forced into hiding with Anne Frank, first to hate her and then to find yourself falling in love with her? Especially with your parents and her parents all watching almost everything you do together. To know you’re being written about in Anne’s diary, day after day? What’s it like to start questioning your religion, wondering why simply being Jewish inspires such hatred and persecution? Or to just sit and wait and watch while others die, and wish you were fighting.

As Peter and Anne become closer and closer in their confined quarters, how can they make sense of what they see happening around them?

Anne’s diary ends on August 4, 1944, but Peter’s story takes us on, beyond their betrayal and into the Nazi death camps. He details with accuracy, clarity and compassion the reality of day to day survival in Auschwitz – and ultimately the horrific fates of the Annex’s occupants.

My Review: After finishing Anne Frank's diary, I was stunk in a Frank funk, so I immediately reached for ANNEXED. Right from the beginning, I was a little off-put by the relationship between Peter and his mother. After all, hadn't he said they didn't get along well in Anne's diary? I liked the relationship between Peter and his parents, for sure, but I felt like the author missed out on a golden opportunity. A famous quote that came from Otto Frank after reading Anne's diary was "Most parents don't really know their children." And since this is a YA novel, it would've been a great chance to expand on that idea and show how Peter's parents, though their relationship with their son was good, they didn't know all of him. It felt kind of one-dimensional at times because we didn't see much or any conflict between Peter and his parents. 

Expanding on that, I think part one in the Annex was really lacking. This is historical fiction. You get to dip your fingers into the past and expand. Where was the development between the others in the attic? What about all the fights Anne talks about, the discussions, the grievances with each other? These people were trapped together for two years! There was tension between them! Anne mentions things briefly (like the arguments), and I'm really disappointed that the author didn't expand on them, show what got on each other's nerves! The entire first part of the book consisted of Peter moping around (and do you really think that wouldn't get old after two years, trapped inside or not? The people in the Annex kept busy!) and even when Anne enters his life, there was no real spark or excitement. Yes, Anne and Peter's romance wasn't of the ages, but the feelings could've been touched on, explore more of why they are clinging to each other, and it could've been much more poignant. 

A scene near the beginning of the book, when they are in the attic and Peter shouts, I found absolutely ridiculous. I could handle it when he whistled. I could deal with him shouting. But when his father shouted back, and then they all go after Peter and he's "screaming"? I know it was meant to be a representation of his emotions and the feelings of entrapment, but come on, these people were in hiding. Like I said, I could understand the shout, but when his father shouted back? You really think the adults would be so stupid as to add to any noise? 

The end was very nicely done. I enjoyed the camps and the way it was presented. I felt like the "light touch" writing style that the author had really worked well here. The ending really brought it up for me, but ultimately I was disappointed. ANNEXED could have pushed the boundaries a bit more, got into the details a bit more, and explored the Annex enough to bring it alive.

TL;DR: 2/5. A pretty bland retelling. 

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