Most of us know about Anne Frank and her life hiding in the secret annex; but what about the boy, Peter van Pels, who hid with her?
In Annexed, Sharon Dogar imagines Peter’s life. What was it like being forced into hiding with Anne Frank, first hating her and then falling in love with her? Especially with their parents watching almost everything they did together. To know Anne was writing about you in her diary, day after day? What was it like to start questioning your religion, wondering why simply being Jewish inspired such hatred and persecution? Or to just sit and wait and watch while others died, and wish you were fighting? As Peter and Anne became closer and closer in their confined quarters, how did they make sense of what they saw happening around them?
Anne's diary ends on August 4, 1944, but Peter's story takes us beyond and into the Nazi death camps. He details with accuracy, clarity, and compassion the day-to-day survival in Auschwitz, and the horrific fates of the annex's occupants.
This powerful story is read by an incredibly talented cast of narrators: Oliver Wyman, Eileen Stevens, Suzanne Toren, Joe Barrett, Rachel Butera, Marc Vietor, Gabra Zackman, Elisabeth Rodgers, Jeremy Gage, Peter Ganim, Jay Snyder, and L. J. Ganser.
Reading any book fiction or non about the Holocaust is, of course, a bleak experience. But listening to a book about the Holocaust is something else entirely. And so it goes with Annexed, a young adult novel by the British writer Sharon Dogar, which reimagines the Anne Frank story from the perspective of the doomed teen’s crush, Peter Van Pels. Here, it’s 16-year-old Peter who keeps the diary, chronicling the two years spent hiding from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic with his parents and the Frank family; the last section of the book is devoted to his tragic fate at Mauthausen, a Nazi death camp in Austria.
Emotions and sometimes hormones run high in this novel, and narrator Oliver Wyman nails it. He’s not just narrating; he’s emoting, and, with his vague, lilting European accent, he delivers one convincing performance as the confused 16-year-old Peter. (Other characters in the book are performed by a full cast.) From his initial resistance to the precocious Anne to realizing that he’s falling in love with her, there isn’t a doubt we’re listening to a smart, gentle, and thoughtful young man. More haunting is when his story moves to the camp, and he relates, in heartbreaking detail, the cruelty inflicted on the Jews. As his body gets weaker, so too does his voice, until it’s barely a whisper.
A flurry of controversy swirled around Annexed upon its release, with critics accusing Dogar of exploiting both Anne Frank’s legacy and that of Peter Van Pels, who was, of course, a real person. Regardless of how you view Dogar’s intentions, the effect of her efforts is the same: a reimagining that takes the well-known story of Anne Frank and enriches it by bringing alive the boy who we all know died too soon. Jaime Buerger
"A dramatic and ambitious companion to The Diary of Anne Frank…. Showing equal skill in bringing history to life and in capturing the spirit of a young man searching for his identity amid chaos, Dogar has written a novel as provocative as it is devastating." (Publishers Weekly)
"[Dogar] creates a captivating historical novel and fully fleshes out the character of Peter… Annexed is a superb addition to the Holocaust literature, and should not be missed." (School Library Journal)
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Disturbing, but Powerful
- Paul Z.
Loved, Loved, Loved It!!