Jenny Lee’s YA novel, which was acquired for a prestige TV adaptation in a competitive situation way back in January, follows a 17-year-old at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society. She has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W.; she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a little controlling). Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather a sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie. As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna has always seemed to be able to sail gracefully above it all, until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky, a notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure. Their collision will change both of their lives forever.
The book and its series are expected to land with a splash next year, and EW has a first look at what has gotten publishing and TV executives so excited. Below, you can read a first excerpt from Anna K., and in case you missed it, the book’s official cover is below. Anna K. publishes March 3, 2020 and is available for pre-order.
Excerpt from Anna K., by Jenny Lee
Every happy teenage girl is the same,
while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way.
The whole thing was a fucking disaster. Lolly found out her boyfriend Steven was cheating on her while she was getting his Apple Watch outfitted with a new wristband at the Hermès store on Madison Avenue. Steven didn’t even know she had his Apple Watch. Twenty minutes ago, he decided to do back-to-back SoulCycle classes, while Lolly begged off staying for the second class with him. (Her new gluten-free diet lacked the necessary carbs for her to handle doing a double sesh without passing out.)
She was telling him the truth while also needing the time and access to his Apple Watch to take it to the store for a new wristband, his present for their eighteen-month “screw-a-versary” which happened to be the very next day. (Lolly didn’t love commemorating their first official date with this crude moniker, but Steven called it that. Lolly went along because she loved him.) So while Steven was climbing an imaginary hill to the steady beat of Dua Lipa’s “IDGAF” at the East 83rd Street studio, Lolly was fifteen blocks south standing at the counter of Hermès.
She was deciding between the traditional double-wrap band in iconic orange leather and the more hetero choice in matte black. She was admiring the orange band on her own delicate wrist, when Steven’s Apple Watch vibrated and a tiny tit pic flashed on the screen, followed by the gray text bubble containing the letters DTF? *eggplant emoji*
Lolly tapped the touch-screen to see the photo again. Confirming the worst, she froze until her fight-or-flight impulse kicked in. Lolly chose flight, forgetting to take off the new band as she ran out, and was stopped by the burly security guard who blocked the door. Lolly, never good at holding back tears, started to sob pitifully, staring down at her beloved Gucci sneakers (the ones with the glittering snakes) that Steven had bought for her this past Christmas. Unsure of what to do, the security guard placed his arms around the crying girl. She pressed her face into his poly-blend jacket and whispered, “It’s a mistake. It must be a mistake. Please let it be a goddamn mistake.”
Eventually the beautiful Japanese saleswoman decked out in head-to-toe Hermès, who had been helping Lolly before, took charge of the situation and brought her into the back room. She sat her down on a small couch and gave her a Perrier, which gave Lolly hiccups and made her start crying even harder. The whole scene was quite embarrassing for all parties involved. Kimiko, who had worked at Hermès for ten years, was no stranger to the rampant cheating of the city’s wealthiest citizens, many of whom were her clients, but there was something about witnessing this seventeen-year-old girl’s loss of innocence IRL that unexpectedly moved her.
Once they had gotten rid of her hiccups, Lolly asked if she should scroll through the rest of her boyfriend’s messages or not. Kimiko said in a quiet voice, “Better to find out how bad it is now when you’re not alone.” Soon both women were mesmerized by the appallingly graphic nature of Lolly’s boyfriend’s relationship with the mysterious “Brad.” Steven had used a fake name in his contacts, but there was no chance “Brad” was a guy judging from the plethora of female body parts being photographed and sent to Steven over the last several weeks. There was even one blurry up-the-skirt video that made both women wince and groan in unison.
Lolly purchased an Hermès Iris belt buckle and reversible strap in bleu saphir and bleu Brighton to thank Kimiko for her kindness and left the store fifteen minutes later, Uber-ing straight to Steven’s parents’ massive four-bedroom penthouse apartment at 15 Central Park West (his parents were currently in Aspen skiing) to wait for his cheating ass. She tipped Gustavo the doorman a Benjamin not to tell Steven she was upstairs, citing a surprise gift and waving the orange Hermès shopping bag as proof. The doorman took her money, but clearly warned Steven anyway because ten minutes later her bf showed up carrying red deli roses in his still sweaty hands.
He had managed only the words, “Lolly baby, what’s wrong?” before his mother’s favorite Lalique Tourbillons amber vase whizzed past him and smashed into the marble foyer floor. He stared at his normally demure girlfriend in shock when she said, “Just tell me one thing Steven . . . !” her voice now building in ferocity. “When’s your screw-a-versary with Brad?!” She was now holding up his Apple Watch as digital proof. Steven stared at it and knew he was irrefutably busted.
Steven’s momentary confusion quickly turned to sheepish shame and he activated full grovel mode. He tried to approach her, but she backed away from him. “Don’t come near me, you . . . you . . . disgusting pig! That’s right, I saw all the vile thirst trap pics that slut Brad sent you!” she screamed. At the mention of the pictures, the latest naked pic that Steven had seen on his phone after class popped into his brain and the tiniest lascivious smile flickered across his face. He was an eighteen-year-old boy, after all.
Unfortunately, Lolly caught Steven’s smirk.
The noise she emitted was more animal than human and she ran past him, almost knocking him over in the process. Having nowhere to run except the end of the hall, Lolly opened the door to the master bedroom and slammed the heavy door behind her. She locked the door and ran straight into Steven’s mother’s walk-in closet. She threw herself facedown on the bloodred crushed-velvet chaise at its center and began to cry harder than she had ever cried before.
Steven tried talking to Lolly through the door, but he was met only with the occasional sound of things being thrown at the door. An hour later he was in the living room watching Sports Center highlights and eating his third pepperoni Hot Pockets when he received the following text from his buddy Kaedon: Dude, did U buy ur gf a fur coat?!!! Steven paused the TV and quickly discovered he was already unfriended and blocked across all Lolly’s social media accounts. (So much for their 453-day Snap Streak!) He texted Kaedon back: screenshot?
Seconds later he received a selfie of a possibly naked Lolly wearing one of his mother’s fur coats. Lolly, being much tinier than his mother, looked ridiculous in the chevron-quilted Russian sable, her eyes wild and ringed with mascara. She looked like a rabid raccoon . . . one who just found out that her boyfriend was cheating on her and was royally pissed. He shook his head and knew the situation was now far beyond his skills to rectify. Steven fired off a string of texts to his sister Anna in Greenwich, Connecticut, telling her he was in dire need of her immediate in-person assistance. His sister was eighteen months younger than he was, but much wiser, especially when it came to relationships and all the tricky emotions that came with them.
Ten minutes later he received a text from Anna announcing her arrival into Grand Central at 8:55 P.M. Before he could text back telling her to take a car, two more texts arrived explaining the latest snowfall was backing up traffic, with Google Maps showing how a train would be the fastest way into Manhattan for her. Anna’s last text stated she expected him to pick her up at Grand Central in person so she could hear his side of the 911 gf emergency!! Steven replied with only the single character: k, as there was no emoji face to pictorially represent the grand scale of how fucked he truly was.