Anika Dragomir is the third most popular girl in school, behind her best friend Shelli and her best frenemy Becky. On the outside, she’s all lip gloss, boobs and blonde hair, but inside, she’s spider stew. Constantly working hard to maintain her social position, she’s fully aware that if she shows one iota of interest to Logan McDonough, who has just come back from the summer break transformed from a loser to a hot fit guy, Becky will take her down to Chinatown. But who needs Logan anyway, when supercool and socially acceptable Jared Kline is asking her out on dates?
So yeah, at around page ten I was seriously contemplating giving this book up. I’d read Anika Dragomir’s internal dialogue for all of five minutes and already I despised her. She speaks like a mallrat, she’s ridiculously judgemental and she slut-shames the girl who’s supposed to be her best friend. Jesus, I thought, I don’t think I can stomach another 300-odd pages of this horrible girl.
But I plugged on. I’m not entirely sure why - maybe there was something in the narrative that hinted to hidden depths in Anika’s personality, or maybe it was just to see where the plot was going, but I plugged on and bloody hell, I’m so glad I did. This book was such an emotional rollercoaster. Just when I start wondering if I’ve read so many books in my life that none will truly push my buttons again, a book like this comes along and I realise that yes, I have the capacity to be emotionally affected in as many ways as there are authors in the world.
So, first I want to talk about Anika. She’s not a pleasant girl. She’s snarky, foul-mouthed, irreverent, casually bigoted and judgemental. But she’s also funny, loyal to the people she loves and grudgingly kind.
I’ve read a few reviews from readers who gave this book up because they hated Anika so much, and while obviously other people’s opinions are totally valid, I do wonder whether some people picked this book up thinking they were going to get a hero rather than a protagonist. Where a hero is always the good guy, the protagonist has mixed motives. They have flaws, sometimes lots of them. They’re REAL.
Anika is a protagonist. She’s not like ... (racks brains for an example of a hero) ... I dunno, maybe Clary from TMI. Clary is self-sacrificing, loyal, brave, pure - a true hero.
Anika is not a hero. She’s having a thing with Logan and hides it from everyone because she’s terrified (with some justification, admittedly) of what everyone (Becky) will think. She’s utterly incapable of being true to herself in this regard, and yet at other times she shows flashes of humanity that took my breath away. This book was sold to me as a version of Mean Girls, but really it’s a lot more than that. And I LOVED Mean Girls.
One of the things I loved most about this book, was this scene right at the end, where Anika calls Becky out on her Mean Girl ways and everyone applauds and Becky scuttles off, shamed and (hopefully) repentant. It was incredibly emotional and the whole scene had such a John Hughes feel to it, totally in keeping with the time the book was set in. I could completely imagine Molly Ringwald up there on the podium as Anika and like Shannon Doherty or someone as Becky.
The plot is a love triangle mixed in with Anika’s attempts to reconcile her twisted insides with what she thinks she ought to be like and what everyone else expects her to be. The only thing I wanted to see more of was Anika’s relationship with Logan - he was such a sweetheart - but I could see why some aspects were skated over - Anika is so terrified that people will find out, that she can barely even admit her feelings to herself.
I’ve read reviews from other readers and it would seem that Anatomy of a Misfit is a Marmite book - you’ll love it or hate it. I’d recommend anyone going in to bear in mind from page one that Anika isn’t a hero and maybe you'll enjoy it too.