Review: Annexed

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: AnnexedAnnexed by Sharon Dogar
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on October 4, 2010
Genres: Historical
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: ALA

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.

I have read a few memoirs and fictitious accounts about the Holocaust, including The Diary of Anne Frank, although I read that some time in middle school, or possibly even late in elementary school. Dogar’s book intrigued me, but I had no great expectations going into it.

Her portrayal of Peter van Pels is as a confused, hormonal, depressed, not all that intelligent boy. At the outset of the novel, he is obsessed with a girl named Liese, who he dreams of and mourns after he enters the annex; her being taken away was almost the last thing he saw before entering the hidden area behind the book case. His love for her dwindles over time, as Ann ages and time passes. Reading the section on their romance reminded me vaguely of Romeo and Juliet, what with their both having had prior love interests (at least in the novel) and their fates being doomed from the start. Their interactions felt awkward and not particularly loving. What I cannot say is whether that was intentional, meant to be indicative of the fact that their emotions were driven primarily by hormones, close quarters and the stress of not knowing how long they would live, or whether they were intended to be perceived as some legendary thwarted romance as the cover blurb would seem to suggest.

The writing is simple throughout, probably pretty easy to comprehend for reluctant readers or children transitioning to teen books. The story does go back and forth from Peter on his death bed to the memories of earlier times. This is however not confusing, as the times in the bast are written in regular font and death-bed Peter’s thoughts are italicized.

The second part of the book, which describes briefly the experience getting to and living (if it can rightly be called so) in the camps. While I know why she included this, I am not entirely sure it added much to the story. Maybe it did, and I do not know if one can write a story about the Holocaust without including that. Either way, I did not particularly care for most of the section, since it was essentially a repetition of what memoirs have expressed about the camps. Although perhaps it is more accessible for younger people this way. (Can you tell I haven’t quite made up my mind?) The one thing I found interesting from here was the emphasis on the terrible things that Peter had to do to survive in the camp, just as a regular prisoner, not as an overseer or anything.

Annexed may not be my idea of perfection, but it did make me want to reread Anne Frank’s diary, so that’s something.

One response to “Review: Annexed”

  1. GMR says:

    Interesting post! I have this one coming up for a read/review very soon and as soon as I read about the book I instantly thought…must reread Anne Frank’s Diary! Thanks for sharing your reading adventure…and happy reading!

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