Ana of California by Andi Teran
Penguin Books: June 30, 2015 (Young Adult)*
The reason that I picked up Ana of California is solely due to the fact that it’s a reimagining of one of my favourite books, Anne of Green Gables. As always with retellings there is some (or a lot) of risk involved in taking on a book that is beloved by so many people. For the most part, I think Ana of California says true to the essence of Anne while standing alone as it’s own work.
Ana was orphaned followed the murder of her parents and then her grandmother by gang members in L.A. For years Ana has been bouncing around foster care until her social worker offers her a last chance in a farming program. If Ana works on a farm until she turns sixteen she just might be able to get herself emancipated. Ana knows that she has to make this new situation work, and she knows this means keeping her mouth shut more often than not. Of course, this is not always easy for Ana.
Emmett and Abbie Garber are a brother and sister duo that have been running the family farm; however, times have been tough in more ways than the financial. Abbie makes the decision to take part in the farm program that brings Ana to them. Unlike Emmett, Abbie is thrilled to have Ana living with them, appreciating both Ana’s hard work and her positive presence. Of course, having read Anne of Green Gables it’s clear that Ana’s growing relationship with the Garber’s is going to hit some pretty significant roadblocks.
For those that have read Anne of Green Gables the plot of Ana of California isn’t surprising; it follows Anne in broad strokes. That said, Ana was her own character. Yes, she Anne Shirley-esque with her rambling words and imaginative spirit, but Ana was also her own character, which I thought was a good move on the author’s part. I’m a big Anne fan, but I don’t want to read the exact same story. With Ana of California the author succeeds in modernizing a classic tale for existing fans while also crafting an engrossing story for readers unfamiliar with Anne.
As much as I enjoyed Ana of California I did find that the ending was a bit rushed and unbalanced in comparison to the first three quarters of the book. There was so much care evident in the first part of the book in how Ana and the Garbers were introduced to readers, then all the sudden readers are thrown new characters of Rye (a.k.a. Diana from Anne) and Cole (a.k.a. Gilbert from Anne) who were not explored with the same depth that Abbie and Emmett were. Abbie and Emmett were fabulous and I only wish that as much time would have been spent on Rye and Cole. For me Ana of California needed to be longer.
For fellow rabid Anne of Green Gables fans, I think you’ll appreciate this homage to a classic. Ana of California pays tribute to a classic but also offers an engrossing coming-of-age tale of a funny, endearing and quirky heroine.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Another aspect of Ana of California that I appreciated was the fact that it showcased Ana is a positive relationship with both her social worker and her new guardians, the Garbers. Too often these orphan tales focus on the bad and heartbreaking. Another novel that also does this very well is Jan Andrews The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley. Like Ana, Kyle is a foster kid and has a bit of quirky bent (no speaking and an interest in art). It doesn’t emphasis the bad things that have happened to Kyle in foster care, but rather focuses on his new foster parents and Kyle’s positive momentum forward.
I haven’t read On Jellicoe Road yet, but it’s one that I’ve been meaning to for a long time. I think it fits nicely as a follow-up to Ana of California since it’s main character is also an orphan of sorts (she was abandoned at a 7-eleven as a kid). I’ve heard nothing but positive things about this one.