Anatomy Of A Misfit
New York Times
Fifteen-year-old Anika Dragomir throws her arms around us and draws us in from the very beginning of Andrea Portes’s “Anatomy of a Misfit”: “You’re never gonna believe what happened,” she announces.
A relative loner — the youngest of five in her blended family, and “the one that everyone has decided is mentally deranged” — Anika has only two real friends (and one of those is her mother) even though she’s the third-most-popular girl in her high school. But she knows how to charm us. Her droll, intimate, often laugh-out-loud funny narration carries the reader through more than 300 pages of a meandering plot. “Our house kind of looks like a Pizza Hut, if you wanna know the truth,” she says at one point. “You might as well just drive up and order breadsticks.” Anika’s winning voice may just be the star of Portes’s first young adult novel.
Anika is blond and blue-eyed, but don’t let her “apple pie” looks fool you: Inside, she’s “spider soup,” a half-Romanian girl in white-bread Lincoln, Neb. She’s a master manipulator playing a straight-A student. She slips Valium to her “jerkface” boss at the Bunza Hut, the fast-food joint where she clocks after-school and weekend shifts and steals from the cash register, encouraging Shelli, her naïve co-worker, best friend and the school’s second-most-popular girl, to do the same. She sneaks out of her second-floor bedroom to meet rebel-without-a-social-status Logan McDonough. And she knows exactly how to massage the ego of “pure unadulterated evil” Becky Vilhauer, the queen bee of Pound High School, in order to keep the peace. Anika understands that her place as No. 3 is enviable, and even though it’s all ridiculous — we know it, and she does too — she can’t help it: She still cares.
Here’s the problem with Logan: He used to be a huge dork, so Becky does not approve of him. But over the summer he lost 20 pounds and came roaring back to school on a Vespa, which makes him, in Anika’s eyes, the hottest loser around. “Logan has probably written like five plays secretly that are obviously brilliant but no one will know because they’re just sitting there in his Trapper Keeper,” she decides. The two embark on a forbidden yet chaste love affair, with Logan whisking Anika away on his moped late at night, taking her to one of his real estate mogul father’s model homes, where they drink beer in front of a fireplace and confide in each other about their family dramas. His outsize romantic gestures — setting off the fire alarm so he can fill her art class with butterflies, leaving a gold necklace engraved with her name on her front steps — both excite and scare Anika.
But like all brooding, romantic, probable-genius types, Logan is a bit, well, tortured. His troubled relationship with his father hints at something much darker, and when Anika sees how far he’ll go to “protect” her, she’s rightly terrified. Besides, he’s still an outcast, and she wants to keep her social status intact. Then there’s Jared Kline, the most popular guy in town — and “possibly Omaha,” as her brother Henry says, when Jared shows up to ask her out — who is jumping through all the old-fashioned hoops to woo Anika too. It’s the classic teenage movie “Heathers,” with a love triangle and Anika as Veronica Sawyer, the darkly comic insider with an outsider’s perspective and a tortured outcast love interest who raises questions of social hierarchy.
Portes seems to want “Anatomy of a Misfit” to be a star-crossed high school love story. But that plot never completely gels, and a novel can’t sustain itself on voice alone, no matter how brightly engaging it may be. Side stories are given almost as much space as the main narrative. Portes’s rapid-fire pacing works much better in her disturbing, dark adult novels, the speed-fueled, picaresque “Hick” and the lyrical, brutal mystery “Bury This.”
Anika moves us along at a relatively even clip until the last 30 pages when, suddenly, Something Huge happens, but we aren’t given enough time to absorb or process it. According to the publisher, “Anatomy of a Misfit” is based on events that took place in Portes’s ninth-grade year, and perhaps that’s how it felt for her in real life. But for a teenage audience — for any audience — there should be time to take in the consequences of what’s occurred. Still, Anika comes across as a Veronica Sawyer for a new generation. She is a wise and refreshingly funny narrator, and that’s always welcome.
“Anika Dragomir is the funniest, snarkiest, most insightful misfit a reader could ever hope to meet. I laughed my way through Anatomy of a Misfit right up until the very end, when the book broke my heart into a million pieces. This is a beautiful, brave and powerful novel.”
— Melissa Kantor, author of Maybe One Day and The Breakup Bible
“A self-deprecating and highly memorable heroine whose bawdy, laceratingly funny narration makes her instantly endearing while also revealing her flaws, uncertainties, and ethical quandaries.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“… a romance filled with seriously funny dark humor and tragedy.”
“Anika’s observations are razor-sharp, especially when she is describing other people… An introductory note says the story is based on the author’s ninth-grade experience. What a year.”
— The Horn Book
“Anika’s droll voice shines, and her emotions are palpable. After a heartbreaking tragedy, Anika’s ending . . . will leave readers cheering.”
— School Library Journal
As the third most popular girl in school, 15-year-old Anika Dragomir worries a lot about her precarious social rank, which means tolerating the casual cruelties of Becky Vilhauer, who rules their Nebraska high school with an iron fist. Morally conflicted, Anika surreptitiously tries to undo some of Becky’s damage (such as dismantling an invented pregnancy rumor), but Anika’s secret relationship with geek-turned-hottie Logan McDonough only adds to her problems.
This nascent romance is further complicated when Jared Kline, “the biggest stone-cold fox in the city, possibly in the state,” unexpectedly starts courting Becky and she gets disturbing glimpses of Logan’s home life. In this YA debut, adult author Portes (Hick; Bury This) serves up a self-deprecating and highly memorable heroine whose bawdy, laceratingly funny narration makes her instantly endearing while also revealing her flaws, uncertainties, and ethical quandaries.
Throughout, Portes hints that tragedy is in the cards, and while the final chapters flirt with melodrama, the novel will leave many readers dwelling on missed opportunities to take a stand in their own lives. Ages 14–up. Agent: Katie Shea Boutillier, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Books & Writers Junior- Bibliomaniac
Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair—the third most popular girl in school. Inside, she’s a freak: a mix of dark thoughts, diabolical plots, and, if local chatter is to be believed, vampire DNA (after all, her father is Romanian). But she keeps it under wraps to maintain her social position. One step out of line and Becky Vilhauer, first most popular girl in school, will make her life hell. So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a black-leather-jacket-wearing dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life? Who cares if the right girl could help him with all that, maybe even save him from it? Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates? Who?
Anatomy of a Misfit is Mean Girls meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Anika’s hilariously deadpan delivery will appeal to readers for its honesty and depth. The so-sad-it’s-funny high school setting will pull readers in, but when the story’s dark foreboding gradually takes over, the devastating penultimate tragedy hits like a punch to the gut. Readers will ride the highs and lows alongside funny, flawed Anika — from laughter to tears, and everything in between.
My Review: This caught my eye online and I was so excited about reading it! From the blurb, it sounded like a really funny but dark contemporary, a little like Looking for Alaska. It really was, though I’m really mixed about it. Anatomy of a Misfit is definitely going to be well loved – I think I’m in a minority of people still unsure.
I liked Anika, needless to say. She’s a very relatable protagonist, and I think Andrea Portes has captured the social hierarchy competition in high schools really accurately. Anika had a greatly developed back-story that’s the reason for most of her social struggle. The way she deals with things is often really funny. The protagonist did have a good voice but I didn’t click with her like I do with other characters.
There are two love interests… something which I instantly worried about because I can hardly ever tell either love interest apart. I’m useless. And truthfully, I got so mixed up with them… Even with the shocking ending, I had to reread earlier bits to make sure I was getting everything right. It’s probably mainly me being really forgetful though…
The plot is enjoyable and there are so many things dealt with in it. Every event was either really funny or really hard-hitting. There were some things, though, that seemed to just be forgotten about after a while – there’s one minor character’s story that could’ve developed more especially, I think.
On the back of my copy it talks about the story having a dark undercurrent flowing through the story, and lots of foreshadowing towards an unbelievable ending. That’s completely true. Every few chapters, there’s one that’s a flash forward, that’s so sinister sounding I struggled to figure out what could possibly happen! The last few chapters really do hit you like a punch to the gut. I could never have predicted it. At first I didn’t see how it was… There are hints in the plot, but because I got so confused between parts I don’t think it hit me as hard! The foreshadowing is very hard to see, but reading over bits made me kick myself a little. Portes leaves you in a bit of a daze at the ned of the story.
Overall, Anatomy of a Misfit was an enjoyable novel, but one that I expected to love more than I actually did. I think the protagonist was likeable, but didn’t really completely stand out to me – though I’m sure that many other readers will love her! The plot was so memorable and I’m sure I won’t every forget that ending… There were aspects I couldn’t get on with, but I’m sure I’d read another YA title from Andrea Portes!