Sunday, October 12, 2014

Book Review: Anastasia Absolutely by Lois Lowry (1995)

Though there are still two books about the Krupnik family left after this one, Anastasia Absolutely is the last book of the series to star Anastasia as its main character. Anastasia now has a new dog for whom she is primarily responsible. One day, while walking the dog, she is meant to mail a package for her mother, but instead accidentally mails a small bag of dog waste. When she realizes what she has done, Anastasia becomes convinced that she has committed a felony and spends days agonizing over whether to turn herself in, and how she will avoid severe punishment.

Though many of Anastasia’s experiences have been a bit on the silly side, this one is probably the least believable. I just had trouble buying that an intelligent middle schooler could mail a bag of poop without instantly realizing it, or that she would truly believe an accident like that could result in her going to jail. For me, this all made the plot seem rather thin as compared with other books.

What does work nicely is Lowry’s inclusion of Anastasia’s essays for her values class at the end of each chapter. These “what would you do” scenarios give insight into Anastasia’s character, but also provide opportunities for the reader to reflect on his or her own opinions. Lowry has included a document component like this in every Anastasia book, and it has worked successfully each and every time, right up to the end.

Sixteen years passed between the publication of Anastasia Krupnik (1979) and Anastasia Absolutely (1995), and this last book really feels like a relic of the past when compared with other 90s middle grade novels. By the time of this final story’s publication, it seems as though Anastasia would be out of step with the technology, interests, and worldview of the readers in her target audience. For this reason, it is probably wise that Lowry concluded her series here. Also strange is the way Anastasia’s teacher talks to her. He keeps talking about how pretty she is in a way that raises definite red flags in light of contemporary concerns over child sexual abuse, even though no such incident occurs in the story.

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