Annie John grows distant from the mother she idolizes and must find her own way as she goes to school in Antigua. Annie John is a young girl living in Antigua, Guatemala whose life is peaceful and happy. She is especially close to her mother who coddles the girl. Annie becomes obsessed with the idea of death at the age of ten when she spends time outside of the city and realizes that children her age die. She visits the wake of a deformed girl her own age to try to wrap her mind around the concept. When she witnesses her parents having sex, she is distanced from them, feeling isolated from the union they share.
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Annie is sent to a challenging new school to become a lady. She falls in love with a girl named Gwen, and later another girl known in the book as the "Red Girl". Annie begins stealing things that she can sell to buy gifts for the Red Girl. Her mother suspects something but is unable to find the things Annie steals. This drives her further away from her mother. About the time Annie enters puberty, the Red Girl moves away. Annie's next years in school are a mixture of success and failure. Despite good grades, she is reviled by some of her teachers for behavior that is misunderstood. She is punished for a minor infraction by having to copy Paradise Lost in its entirety by hand.
As she ages, Annie's relationship with her mother becomes more strained. Her mother chides her for what she wrongly interprets as promiscuous behavior and Annie dreams of living abroad. Her whole state of mind becomes very depressed. The girl suffers a mental breakdown and is bedridden and nearly catatonic for weeks. She is finally brought back to herself by her compassionate grandmother. During her last year of school, Annie makes arrangements to leave Antigua. Upon graduation she says goodbye to her family and leaves for England to study nursing.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like how Annie's foolishness is so relatable, in one way or another, to anyone who has been a teenager.
Opinion about the main character:
Annie never makes things better or easier for herself. A different personality could have made a happier time for herself.