Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book Review: Annexed by Sharon Dogar

Pages: 320
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: October 4, 2010
My Rating:

Goodreads says, "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?"

One of the most powerful units I teach to my eighth grade students is the World War II / Anne Frank unit and when I saw this novel, I knew I had to read it.  This novel is from Peter's point of view and what it was like living in the Secret Annex with Anne Frank.  Readers gain a new perspective on all of the important events from The Diary of a Young Girl and get to see the Franks, van Pels, and others through different eyes.  Granted Sharon Dogar must fill in the blanks for certain situations in the novel, Annexed feels extremely authentic and thought provoking.  I highly recommend it to fans of A Diary of a Young Girl or historical fiction.


What's so wonderful about this novel is the fact that Dogar can give us Peter's perspective regarding many of the important events in the diary, such as the break-ins, his blossoming romance with Anne, and his interactions with his parents.  A lot of the boys I teach really hate the idea of reading Anne's diary and are immediately turned off. I bet this novel would appeal to them as Dogar does a good job capturing a male's perspective.  What I also found to be fascinating is Dogar's portrayal of Anne.  I could recognize how she might get on the nerves of the other residents in the annex, but Peter's view of her evolves as the novel progresses.  It was a natural progression that I felt was believable.  Lastly, Mr. Frank, Mrs. Frank, Margot, Miep and the others really come to life in this novel; being reacquainted with them was like visiting a long lost friend.  It was fascinating to see them "come to life" again in this work of historical fiction.  


I must admit that I always felt luke warm about Peter when I read and/or taught Diary of a Young Girl; however, Dogar's version made me more interested and more invested in him.  His discussions with Anne, especially in the attic, were moving and really made you sit and think for awhile.  There were so many powerful discussions between Peter and Anne in this novel, but I'll share one that I felt to be especially moving.  

"I mean what if this is it?  What if this is the rest of our life?  Or if we're found, what happens next? Why don't we have an escape route...and what if this is our only chance to...?" 
         She's so quiet, so quiet it makes it difficult to go on.  "....to fall in love or to know each other..."  I run out of worlds. I've said too much. I stop. I'm blushing.
Anne's staring at me seriously, waiting.  
         "What do you think?" I ask.
         "I'm not sure what you're saying?" she says, but she's shaking.
         "Anne! What if we never get out of here!"


Another extremely interesting aspect of this book is the fact that it continues after the diary abruptly ends.  Readers experience the horrific conditions of life at the Nazi Death Camps and the portrayal of Aushchwitz is especially vivid.  Through Peter's eyes the death camps felt so real, so gut-wrenching.  You have no choice but to feel emotionally moved when reading about Peter's experiences.  When all is said and done, Dogar includes an epilogue that covers the actual events after the diary ends and it really ties everything together.  


Annexed by Sharon Dogar is a truly an poignant book and delivers such a powerful punch that stays with readers long after the epilogue ends. I was up very late thinking and reflecting about Annexed; I came to one conclusion. Even though this isn't Peter's "actual" story, it's as close to Peter's story as we will ever get and it's an important one.  It's one about love, friendship, family, the good in people, the bad and ultimately, it's about hope.  The most important thing I always stress to my students is the fact that we can't let history repeat itself and to honor something is to remember it.  Anne Frank truly said it the best when she explained,
".. in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again.


 *Buy Annexed

*Watch the book trailer and interview with Sharon Dogar

8 comments:

  1. This was a very intriguing read, and it was neat to see the characters come to life again.

    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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  2. Great review. I definitely want to read this one. I know there's been a lot of controversy over whether this book should have been written, but from a historical point of view and as a fan of historical fiction (especially that dealing with WWII), I'm intrigued.

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  3. Brandi- I agree. It was very intriguing and powerful.
    Thanks for stopping by!

    Leanna- Thanks! I heard about the controversy, but I think Dogar does a good job. I'd definitely check it out. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Oh, I'm so eager to read Annexed -- especially after reading your review! I saw my first review of it last week and immediately placed it on hold at the library. The Diary of Anne Frank was such a formative book for me growing up, like so many readers!

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  5. Sounds amazing and heart breaking. Thanks for the review and your thoughts :)

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  6. Meg- I think you'll really enjoy this book, especially if you liked Diary of a Young Girl. It's so sad, but in the end it's filled with a lot of hope. Thanks for stopping by!

    JuJu- Thanks for stopping by. It was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, but so very worth it.

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  7. Awesome review!! I am trying to read this one right now....I'm having a hard time with it for sure. Gut wrenching is the right word...

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  8. It's an amazing book, I read it about 3 years ago and I can still vividly remember it. The ending was brutal though, after reading Anne Frank's diary and seeing many television adaptations I knew what to expect but she wrote it in a way that I felt like I was really there. Before it would be a list of names and deaths at the back of the book and I didn't feel quite as much.

    Under The Mountain

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