Anatomy of a Misfit, by Andrea Portes, is reminiscent of all the coming of age movies I watched back in the 80s, and it has "Indie Film" written all over it. It deals with the socially inflicted teen struggles of popularity, peer pressure, and student cliques. However, this novel goes beyond those timeless themes by addressing more difficult issues such as social prejudices, alcoholism, and domestic abuse.
I did not want this book to end. I absolutely loved the heroine, Anika Dragomir, a tenth grade student from Nebraska whose father is a Romanian vampire (no, not really!) This story, told in Anika's voice, is both humorous and genuine. In the course of a few months of school, Anika faces the difficult decision of following her heart or keeping her popularity. While on this tiresome road she tries to discover herself. Parts of it are shockingly funny - giving it the feel of a dark comedy. For instance, Anika poisons her boss with Valium - not something that would normally be considered amusing. However, when you read Anika's reasons for such a heinous act, it is!
The novel is a disturbing look at life during these difficult years. We are reminded that when we're older none of what was important in high school will be significant, nor even remembered. If teens can come to this realization while still in school so much pain can be avoided. Maybe if all high school students read Anatomy of a Misfit, things will change. There will be more mutual understanding and less bullying. Then again, maybe not, maybe that's just part of our human nature and we all have to learn this lesson the hard way, like Anika.
This novel is being met with mixed reviews but all I can say is I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a raw and uncensored look at our reality, which may be too much, even offensive, for some readers. There are some sweet and sappy young-love moments along with several gross incidences of social hypocrisy. I do not think the author encourages the prejudices voiced by the characters. In fact, Portes uses humor and sarcasm to show how ridiculous stereotypes are.
The ending was sad, but not at all surprising - the entire novel was a downhill free fall toward a tragic, life-altering moment. It is a must-read for every high school student and adults who enjoy YA fiction. There is some harsh language, brutal prejudices, underage drinking and sexual content, so I do not recommend it for younger readers.
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