Sixteen-year-old Anne Michaelson is plagued by bad dreams in which she is trapped in a small cabin with a hideous old lady who has iron teeth and huge hands. The dream girl has only a set of nested Russian dolls for comfort. One fateful evening, Anne notices Ethan Kozninsky, a handsome boy, staring at her. After that, the line between dreams and waking life begins to crumble.
Dreaming Anastasia is a fresh look at the fate of Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov. Although the entire Russian royal family was supposed to have been murdered in 1918, rumors have surfaced many times over the past century that one daughter, Anastasia, survived the execution. Preble starts with that premise, mixes in elements of the Russian folk tale of Baba Yaga, adds some magic, and finishes with romance.
The principal plot is told in alternating chapters from Anne's and Ethan's perspectives. The device works well, and it is always clear who is telling the story. Throughout the novel, we also hear from Anastasia, either directly or through her letters. There is plenty of action, and, although we are pretty sure our heroes will prevail, it isn't always clear whom Anne and Ethan should trust and just how they will fulfill their destiny.
Unfortunately, I was not totally lost in the world Preble created. I'm not sure if that's because I didn't strongly identify with Anne or because the book was geared to too young of an audience for me. However, because there is plenty to like about the novel, I can definitely recommend it to older middle readers and younger teens.
Dreaming Anastasia is a fine debut novel, and Joy Preble is an author to keep on your radar. For more on Preble, be sure to read her fabulous guest post, published on Beth Fish Reads yesterday.
Published by Sourcebooks, 2009
Challenges: 100+, 999