Fiction — eBook. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009. 320 pgs. Free download.
I do not remember where I first heard of Preble’s novel but I have always been intrigued by the story of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov of Russia. Murder with her father, mother, sisters, and bother, the location of her burial along with her family was unknown during decades of Communist rule.
When mass grave near Ekaterinburg was discovered in 1991, rumors of her escape were further enflamed when her body (or that of her elder sister Maria) and her brothers were not discovered there. In August 2007, however, the remains of a girl and boy were found not far from the mass grave and DNA testing showed that all members of the family were accounted for.
But I’m still intrigued by those books centered on the idea that Anastasia escaped. In Preble’s novel, the centerpiece of Russian folklore Baba Yaga snatched the Grand Duchess away from her family during their assassination and has been keeping her hostage for years. Dreams in which she is trapped in a small cabin with a hideous old lady with iron teeth and huge hands plague sixteen-year-old Anne Michaelson. But the appearance of Ethan Kozninsky at her school sends Anne reeling and erodes the line between her dreams and her real life as Ethan tells her she holds the key to Anastasia’s escape.
I seem to be in the minority but I did not enjoy this YA book. I found the story hard to follow especially when the line between dreams and reality was blurred. Even after the “mysteries” were explained, I had a hard time understanding the plot, the characters, and the solution to Anastasia’s disappearance. Plus, the characters were so flat that I did not care about a single one of them including Anastasia. Anastasia’s diary entries used words she never would have – girlfriend, for example. There were also moments when Preble was trying to force the idea that Anne is a teenager so much that it felt like too much. Commenting on the price of a latte while fighting for your life? Really?