July 6, 2015

From Foster Home to Finding Family

Ana of California by Andi Teran

Release Date: June 30, 2015
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 368 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
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Summary (from Goodreads)
In the grand tradition of Anne of Green Gables, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and The Three Weissmanns of Westport, Andi Teran’s captivating debut novel offers a contemporary twist on a beloved classic. Fifteen-year-old orphan Ana Cortez has just blown her last chance with a foster family. It’s a group home next—unless she agrees to leave East Los Angeles for a farm trainee program in Northern California. 

When she first arrives, Ana can’t tell a tomato plant from a blackberry bush, and Emmett Garber is skeptical that this slight city girl can be any help on his farm. His sister Abbie, however, thinks Ana might be just what they need. Ana comes to love Garber Farm, and even Emmett has to admit that her hard work is an asset. But when she inadvertently stirs up trouble in town, Ana is afraid she might have ruined her last chance at finding a place to belong.

Thoughts on Ana of California
I think I was browsing Goodreads when I first spotted Ana of California, and I freaked out a little bit when I realized that it was an Anne of Green Gables retelling. As you might know, I'm a huge fan of L.M. Montgomery. The Anne of Green Gables series played a huge role in my reading journey and has remained an all-time favorite for me. I just have to open the first page, and suddenly I'm transported to Prince Edward Island.

Because of my love for Anne Shirley, I was excited to dive into this retelling! I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with retellings. I'm always drawn to them because I love the idea of a twist on a well-known story. Unfortunately, I've read a number that felt too derivative - like I might as well have read the original - and some that were creative but failed to capture the magic of the original. So, where did this one end up?

Fifteen-year-old Ana Cortez is an orphan, and she's just ruined her last chance with a foster family. Her social worker has one last-ditch opportunity for Ana to avoid the group home: a farm trainee program in Northern California. Siblings Abbie and Emmett Garber aren't sure how Ana will fit in, but they take a chance on her anyway. If you've read Anne of Green Gables, you can imagine some of what happens next...

As an avid Anne fan, I enjoyed looking for the way Teran was reimagining elements of the classic story. From the raspberry cordial to Anne's hair misadventure, there were some fun moments that reminded of my favorite aspects of Montgomery's story. While the Northern California setting was very different from Prince Edward Island, I felt that the setting was one of the most memorable aspects of this book. Green Gables is a character in its own right in the original, and Garber Farms certainly grew on me while I was reading. It didn't have nearly the same charm, but I did enjoy the way the setting was still important to the story. I thought it was lovely to see diversity in the characters, too. That definitely stood out while I was reading!

And yet... there was just way too much going on in this book. There are so many things happening at once, and I never really cared about any of them. I was most invested in Ana's story, though I did find it frustrating the way it was teased out her past and kept referencing her future. I never cared about the backstory for Abbie and Emmett (Matthew and Marilla - yes, they're swapped), and I found it distracting. There's Abbie's youthful adventures, her current potential love interest, Emmett's emotional issues over a past relationship and the way it's affecting their business. I absolutely adore Matthew and Marilla in Anne's story, and I found myself wishing I was reading about them instead. While I liked the Diana character, Rye, initially, I grew tired of her pretty quickly. She has her own problems going on, and it was all just way too much.

Gilbert Blythe was my first literary crush, and he will always be my favorite. Honestly, I almost wish his counterpart been cut from this book completely. This was definitely my least favorite part of Ana of California. Cole doesn't hold a candle to Gilbert! I know this is a retelling, but I can't stand the idea of Gilbert turned into a somewhat stereotypical "bad boy." I could write an entire essay on all the reasons I love Gilbert and why he's basically the opposite of what's depicted in this book, but I'll just leave it by saying this was a big NO for me.

While Ana of California was creative, it didn't live up to my expectations. It was a pretty quick and easy read, and there were elements I truly enjoyed. Unfortunately, I wouldn't have picked up this book without the connection to Anne Shirley and that's the element that left me disappointed. I don't think you have to be a fan of Anne of Green Gables to read this book - you can easily dive into the story without any background knowledge of its inspiration. If you are a fan, I'd have a few reservations. I think I would have liked it more if it hadn't been a retelling. I held it to a higher standard because of my love for the original, and it just didn't meet it. It was an interesting twist on the plot of the beloved book, but it just didn't capture the spirit or charm.

So Quotable
"Some things are out of your control, mija, especially where we came from and what we left behind. But we can choose how we react and how we move forward."
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

3 comments:

  1. I pretty much felt exactly the same way about Ana of California! I went into it hoping to love it, to enjoy all the nods to Anne of Green Gables. While I did appreciate how Teran incorporated elements from the original into her story, it just didn't quite make me fall in love the way I was hoping. I do think it would be a pretty solid read if the comparison hadn't been in the forefront of my mind when I read it!

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  2. I was wondering what your thoughts would be on this one! ...and it looks like we felt exactly the same about this book. Sure, it was enjoyable while it lasted, but I wouldn't have picked it up had it not been attached to Anne. I think this could have worked as its own separate story, but as a retelling, it just didn't cut it.

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  3. Retellings are an interesting thing. Reading your review reminded me that I love retellings of myths and fairytales or even some classics. I think the reason most of them work for me is because they are retelling the story though instead of trying to reinterpret characters which it sounds like happened with this book. Sorry to hear it didn't live up to your expectations but happy to see your thoughts, of course.

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