Fiction Reviews Young Readers Reviews ,
Annaka Tackles Grief and Loss in a Way That Feels Heartfelt and Genuine
Nimbus Publishing and Vagrant Press
After 10 long years, Anna (formerly known as Annaka) and her mom are returning to Yarmouth. Although Anna has yearned to return to the life she once knew and loved, the homecoming is not at all what she wanted. Her beloved Grampy has died, and Nan’s Alzheimer’s has turned her into a virtual stranger.
Fortunately, Anna’s best friend Tia welcomes her back with open arms. And then there is Clay, her imaginary friend from childhood who just happens to have been anxiously awaiting her return. It turns out he is able to take her back in time to revisit scenes from her past.
With Clay’s help and Tia’s unwavering support, Anna seeks answers to some of the questions she has about herself and the people she loves. She also struggles to come to terms with the loss of her grandfather, make the most of the time she has with her Nan and make peace with the past.
Andre Fenton’s second novel for young adults, like his first, tackles numerous weighty issues. His protagonist wrestles with grief and loss in a way that feels heartfelt and genuine, and her deep sadness and anxiety about her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s will resonate with anyone who has experience with this terrible illness.
Anna’s frustration with her mother and her desire to meet her father, no matter what that meeting might reveal, are also realistically depicted. The many relationships are believably complex, although the voices of the various characters do not always ring true and are not as distinct as they might have been.
Clay stands out as a delightful character and the magic realism succeeds in adding an original twist to this exploration of family, identity, love and loss.