Annie’s World by Daniel Wright has numerous flaws. Two significant ones are a slow start and a style that seems better suited to adults. Yet if one can overlook its flaws, Annie’s World is an interesting enough entry in the dystopian genre to warrant a read.
Let’s consider the flaws first. If I weren’t a reviewer, I might not have finished Annie’s World due to the slow start. For one thing, I know main character Jake is a survivor of a collapsed world but otherwise I am not sure what his driving motivation is. He says he wants to make a difference in the world, but this is so vague that it gives the reader nothing to get behind. Imagine if Dorothy’s goal in The Wizard of Oz had been to have new experiences or if Katniss’s goal in The Hunger Games had been to enjoy life. The one potential conflict is ignored. Jake witnesses the murder of a woman; but rather than providing him with the goal of seeking justice, it only serves to set him up as the custodian of Annie, and with her he continues his seemingly aimless journey. Consequently, I’m left wondering why I should care what happens to him or his dystopian world. Moreover, the minor characters whom Jake encounters in the first few chapters are as unimportant as movie extras. Yet I have to endure several paragraphs of Jake’s interaction with them. Finally, there is the style. The writing is good enough, but far too much information is given through exposition and dialog. And much of this exposition comes off as lecturing. Consider this snippet of dialog: “Intellect existed but systems of education and willingness to share know-how did not. Intellectually superior beings, able to think and reason, feared those who would manipulate them for greedy advantage….” Is Wright complaining about the problems of the modern world, or is he telling a story? After the first few chapters of Annie’s World, I feared I had found my next bad book contender.
Then something happened. Before I discuss it though, let me tell you about the second flaw. Annie’s World doesn’t seem as it were truly written for young adults. That doesn’t mean teens can’t read it and even enjoy it, but I don’t view it as being specifically aimed at them. Of course, that begs the question of: What is young adult literature? After looking at various sources, some commonalities which Wright does not adhere to include:
a teenage (or young adult) protagonist
adult characters in the background
a limited number of characters
a compressed time span and familiar setting
deal with real emotions
For the first half of Annie’s World, the story is told revolves around the adults in the story. The narration is from the viewpoint of Jake, a disillusioned older man. The main characters he meets are all grown women. Moreover, our heroine Annie for whom the book is named is only a little girl. Even the villains, Hiram who abuses Glory and Tam who raped Lana, are adults. In other words, for the first half of Annie’s World, there are no young adults. In the second half, Annie finally becomes a young woman and takes center stage. Yet there are still two problems. One, I often feel as if viewing Annie from a distance rather than being in her head, the way I would expect with a young adult story. Perhaps, this is because Annie was genetically engineered and so is not a normal teenager with regular emotions. Or maybe Wright simply isn’t comfortable taking on the viewpoint of an adolescent. Two, to speed the story along, Wright jumps five years into the future. At least Wright introduces a second adolescent in Ethan, who becomes a love interest for Annie. For some readers, this might be too little too late. Other teens might find the adult characters, situations, and themes to be acceptable.
So now let’s consider what I liked about Annie’s World. I said that something happened after the slow start of the first few chapters. Jake and Annie meet up with two ladies, one of whom becomes his love interest but not before the two ladies decide to check out a nearby town and find themselves in a dangerous cult-like community. As for Jake and Annie, they stumble upon the home of Dame Fortune, an elderly lady who can predict the future. She recognizes Annie as the needed savior. Now that they’re routinely facing danger, Wright’s major characters, become more interesting to read about. I like Annie and Glory, both of whom must make life-and-death choices for the sake of saving others. And then there is Wright’s style. Consider this description: “Jake scooped a dipper of water from a sheet metal bucket fashioned out of salvaged scraps from the old power plant. It hung by its wire handle on a stubby tree branch. He savored a drink and then sat on the last cedar log….” Everything works here to set the scene, establish tone, reveal character. Here, Wright shows he knows his stuff.
Especially since I’m recommending the book, you might wonder why I spent two paragraphs detailing the flaws in Annie’s World, but then dedicated only one to the positive. Well, I recognize that not all readers will have enough patience to wait for the action to happen. That’s why I’m telling you upfront that you need to hang in there. I also feel obliged as a reviewer of books for young people to say that Annie’s World doesn’t fit the norm, while also acknowledging that it works adequately as an adult book. And now you’re free to decide what to do with that information. :-)
My rating?Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.
I'm excited to review a few books I grew up reading which have stood the test of time to become classics. I'll also continue to include reviews I write for our local multicultural group and for our local dog club. Enjoy!
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