Author: Sharon Dogar
Pub. Date: October 2010
Publisher: Houghton Mifflen Harcourt
Genre: Historical fiction
Age Range: Young Adult
Synopsis/Teaser: 15-year-old Peter van Pels, a Jewish boy in World War II Holland, is forced to go into hiding with his parents and family friends the Franks. Peter finds 13-year-old Anne Frank’s self-confident and smart, snappy nature off-putting, but before long the two become constant companions. Their blossoming love, however, is hampered by Anne’s consuming dedication to her diary. With liberation just out of reach, Peter and Anne are forced to confront their deepest hopes, fears, and suspicions in the face of the horrors of Nazi Germany.
Review: Most of us are familiar with the incredibly sad and moving story of Anne Frank, whose diary was eventually published as The Diary of a Young Girl. Anne hid with her family and friends in the “Secret Annex,” a hidden attic part of her father’s business, for two years before they were discovered. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was the only survivor of the group of eight.
When we read Diary of a Young Girl, we tend to take Anne’s views of the people hiding with her as the only true perspective of them. Anne’s account may well have been truthful and revealing, but what were the other occupants of the Annex thinking? Annexed tries to answer that question in a fascinating work of historical fiction. Peter van Pels represents Peter Van Daan,who hid with the Franks and was Anne’s companion and, eventually, “boyfriend.”
Shannon Dogar does a good job of showing us what Peter may have been thinking while in the Secret Annex. Dogar uses clues from Anne’s published diary to reconstruct Peter’s personality. She uses the phrase “don’t put this in your diary” to explain events she writes of that weren’t taken from Anne’s diary. While clever, this tactic did seem out-of-place in the story.
Peter’s experiences in the Annex are presented in dream-like memory sequences, with occasional commentary from the “current” Peter, who is fatally ill in a Nazi concentration camp. This approach is emotionally stirring but a bit like a prequel: readers are first introduced to Peter as a broken young man recalling his previous life.
Annexed will be a highly intriguing and thought-provoking read for anyone who has read Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. It will surely join Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief among the ranks of great contemporary Holocaust literature for young people.
Recommended for: Teenage history buffs and Anne Frank aficionados.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 possible stars