WHAT ABOUT ANNA? by Jan Simoen


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Age Range: 14 & up
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“I am Jonas. I am dead,” opens Anna’s older brother whose body was ravished by AIDS five years ago. Now, in Belgium in 1999, Anna and her family are still haunted by Jonas’s death, as well that of her oldest brother, Michael, who died three years ago, along with his girlfriend, Marta, both of whom were working for UNICEF in Bosnia when their Land Rover struck a mine. They are troubled more by Michael’s death, however, because medical examiners could not identify the bodies with absolute certainty. About to graduate from high school in a few days, Anna receives a letter from Hugo, Michael’s best friend, stating that he has been in contact with Marta and that Michael may be alive. Why write to Anna? Out of everyone who knew both Jonas and Michael, Anna has a future ahead of her. So begin family secrets, meetings with new friends and friends from the past, connections to Serbian nationalists Arkan and Slobodan Milosevic, and Anna’s role in bringing the past and future together. Simoen, in his debut, divides the novel into three distinct parts. The first presents the cast of characters through chapters told from their own points of view, but it’s not until the second part, which presents the problem and focuses solely on Anna, that it takes on the feel of a YA story. The conclusion comes about in a letter to a key player who assisted both Jonas and Michael. The intriguing plot, driven by extremely realistic dialogue and interior monologues, reveals Simoen’s background as a dramatist. Although the original Dutch text was award-winning, this translation into British English will only be appreciated by the most sophisticated teen readers who are familiar with details of recent Balkan history and who can identify with the emotions and life experiences of Anna and the adults around her. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8027-8808-4
Page count: 264pp
Publisher: Walker
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2002


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