Anna K: A Love Story

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Anna K: A Love Story Book Poster Image
Lots of sex, drugs, partying in update of Tolstoy classic.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Could inspire some readers to check out Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, or, if they've read or seen it, to compare this update with the original. Shows high-flying, privileged lives of wealthy teens in contemporary New York and Connecticut. 

Positive Messages

Money doesn't buy happiness, friends you can trust, or family that will set you on a positive path.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While Anna does try (mostly) to distance herself from hard-partying lifestyle of her New York friends, and Alexia is determined to change his playboy ways, the characters show more of what not to do: drink, take drugs, have casual sex. Anna and Steven are Korean Americans, half-Korean and half-White. Dustin is Black, his adoptive parents are White and Jewish. Other main characters are White. 


A dog and a horse die violent deaths that are briefly described but still may upset sensitive readers.


Teens talk about sex, have sex, talk about friends having sex. A character watches his brother having sex with their father's girlfriend, remembers losing his virginity at 13. Girls talk about how boyfriends and husbands expect "extra special blow jobs on major holidays." A boy walks in on his mother having sex with a man not his father. A girls tells a boy he has "Big Dick Energy." There's a sex tape (taken without consent), and naked selfies and an up-the-skirt video are shared. Characters have a "screw-a-versary."


"F--king" appears in the first sentence of the novel. Teens regularly use "f--k," "s--t," "pissed," "bitch," "d--k," and "goddamn."


Mentions of artists (Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish), movies (Sixteen Candles, When Harry Met Sally), and video games (Fortnite) scattered throughout story.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens regularly drink, get drunk, and go to parties where bartenders serve underage guests. Some characters use cocaine and hallucinogens, and one dies of a heroin overdose.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jenny Lee's Anna K: A Love Story is an updated take on the Leo Tolstoy classic, Anna Karenina. Russia has been swapped for New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut, and this Anna is a wealthy 17-year-old Korean American socialite in the making. She has a boyfriend who's away at college and pretty much manages to avoid the excesses in the lives of her brother and their friends --  privileged, indulged lives that revolve around drinking, drugs, sex, and shopping. When Anna meets 16-year-old Alexia Vronsky (known both for his good looks and for having sex with countless teen girls), it's love at first sight, no matter the consequences.The teen characters are all sexually active or want to be. Girls talk about how boyfriends can expect "extra-special blow jobs on major holidays." There's a sex tape (taken without consent), and naked selfies and an up-the-skirt video are shared. Casual drug taking is more the norm than the exception, and characters regularly use strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "pissed," "bitch," "goddamn"). As in Tolstoy's novel, there's tragedy.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymediteranianb February 28, 2021

Don't buy this book for your 12 year old Christian niece

Excuse me, but what the HELL! I bought THIS BOOK for my 12 YEAR OLD NIECE and now she won't stop asking her mother what a penis is! Don't buy THIS BOO... Continue reading
Adult Written byicatchdreams July 14, 2020

Explicit Content - Gossip Girl-esque

If you have ever seen Gossip Girl, this book is very similar to that series. Anna K is about the elite Manhattan teenagers lives. Though, I couldn't say... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bylei818 May 29, 2020

Anna K.

Okay I know you are exactly in this situation where you are debating to buy this book or not because you are worried that this book could be boring, and that... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byidrk April 29, 2020

You should read this

This book was one of the few books that made me ugly cry. For the record I haven't read the original Anna Karenina book, so I had no idea about the ending... Continue reading

What's the story?

ANNA K: A LOVE STORY interweaves the lives of a group of teens who attend posh prep schools in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut. The beautiful and effortlessly stylish 17-year-old Anna Kim lives at her family's country home in Greenwich so she can be near her show horses and beloved Newfoundland dogs. She's been dating Alexander, a somewhat prudish (according to her friends) Ivy League freshman, since she was 14. Her older brother, Steven, lives in New York and spends his time partying, chasing girls, and having the occasional cocaine bender. His girlfriend, Lolly, has just discovered he's been cheating on her with a girl from the Bronx. Lolly's 15-year-old sister, Kimmie, whose dreams of becoming an Olympic ice dancer were tragically dashed, has been somewhat comforted by winning the No. 3 spot on an underground list of the hottest girls in New York private schools. The bookish Dustin, who's Black and was adopted into a White Jewish family, has been newly and reluctantly hired as Steven's tutor (at $2,000 a week). A childhood friend, he's into coffee shops, study groups, and smart girls. Then there's Alexia Vronsky, as charming, good-looking, and sophisticated as a 16-year-old could possibly be, with a well-founded reputation for having sex with numerous high school girls. No surprise that when Anna meets Alexia, it's love at first sight. Alexia pledges to change his playboy ways, and Anna gives Alexander the boot. But the path of true love for the pair will not be easy, particularly when Dustin falls in love with Kimmie, who's desperately in love with Alexia.

Is it any good?

There's betrayal, heartbreak, family drama, lots of partying and drinking, a sex tape, and a major tragedy in this uneven teen remake of the Tolstoy classic. Readers who loved Gossip Girl and never miss Keeping Up with the Kardashians are likely to be big fans of Anna K.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the teens' hard partying in Anna K. Do you think the novel glamorizes their lives, or does the storyline show the consequences of casual sex and drug use?

  • Why do you think TV shows about the rich and famous are so popular?

  • Has anyone ever filmed you or your friends without your consent and then posted the video on social media? Are there steps you can take to stop this from happening, or is this just the world we live in now?

Book details

  • Author: Jenny Lee
  • Genre: Coming of Age
  • Topics: High School
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • Publication date: March 3, 2020
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
  • Number of pages: 377
  • Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated: April 15, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

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