Review: Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Where did you get this book: Won in a contest

Release date: Currently available

This review contains spoilers!

Blurb taken from authors’ official website:

Sixteen year old Anne thinks her life is pretty ordinary – until she smacks into handsome, mysterious, and okay, annoying Ethan on her way to chemistry class. Now Anne has powers she doesn’t understand, a history altering mission she may not want, and a growing attraction to this blue-eyed stranger. And Ethan- who at eighteen made some choices he’s starting to regret – realizes that Anne is the girl for whom he’s been searching – for a very, very long time. Stir in doomed Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia – who is definitely not quite as dead as the history books say – and Baba Yaga, the legendary witch from Russian folklore, and you’ve got DREAMING ANASTASIA, a contemporary YA fantasy that alternates between the voices of Anne, Ethan, and Anastasia as Anne and Ethan join forces to battle the bad guys and save Anastasia. Only problem is – no one’s quite sure who’s really bad and who’s good. And everyone has some secrets.

I have to say, when I read the premise for this story, I was really excited. I’ve always been fascinated by the mystery surrounding the demise of the Romanovs. And when I first started reading the novel, I thought it was going to live up to my expectations.

The visions Anne had of Anastasia were interesting. Ethan popping up in unexpected places was fun. In short, I initially enjoyed discovering the situation with her. But over time, the excitement wore off. I still enjoyed the novel, but it wasn’t as winning as I’d hoped.

Having said that, the basic story itself is very engaging and the characters are interesting. I like how strong Anastasia stayed through her captivity, and I liked the fact that, unlike many YA stories, Anne had a generally good relationship with her parents. Ethan was cute and kind of clumsy with Anne, which was a nice change from the alpha males often seen in YA. And I enjoyed the inclusion of the Baba Yaga mythology. In other words, there were a lot of things I liked.

The problem is there was a lot I wasn’t fond of too. First, while multiple first person stories aren’t a turn off, I need all the narrators to have very distinct voices. I didn’t feel that with Dreaming Anastasia, particularly with regard to Anne and Ethan’s chapters. And while I liked the inclusion of Anastasia’s journal/letters, I’d like to deck whoever picked the font. It was horribly difficult to read, especially by book light late at night. (Though I don’t hold the author responsible for that choice, it still affected my reading pleasure.)

The way Anne kept worrying about things like skipping class (when Baba Yaga’s giant disembodied hands were chasing her) or getting her driver’s license (when she’d just been shot at) really bothered me. I felt it was a forced way to make her sound more like a teenager. For me, if a teenager is getting attacked by monsters or bad guys, they’re probably thinking the same thing as the average adult, which would be more along the lines of “Oh #*($, I’m glad I’m still alive!” The thing with the much older guy as a love interest bugged me. At first, I liked how they both approached their attraction in an oh-no-can’t-go-there kind of way, but considering the short timeframe of the story, they got over it way too fast. If it was squicky in when she finds out how old Ethan is it would still be squicky a few days later. And lastly, I could well be wrong, but to me it seems logical that an early twentieth century princess would have known how to ride a horse. Why, in that case, would Ethan put Anastasia to ride double on one of the three available horses with Anne, rather than having her ride the third horse alone? It seemed like the logic was twisted there with no explanation just to make it possible for the bad guy to follow them.

All in all, I wanted it to be a great book, I really did. For me though, the plot issues mentioned just made it not measure up to what I’d hoped for. It could have been fabulous, instead it was just okay.

I give Dreaming Anastasia 3.0 stars.

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