Filmmaker-in-training Tash Zelenka is adapting Anna Karenina into a contemporary web series titled, “Unhappy Families.” Sure, it’s a challenge, but Tash loves her Tolstoy. With her best friend, Jacklyn (Jack), as co-producer and a cast of talented teen actors, Tash revels in translating Tolstoy’s words and characters into modern parlance.
When a famous vlogger calls “Unhappy Families” an “undiscovered gem,” subscriptions leap from a few hundred to more than 40,000. Success, however, brings unintended consequences. Tash’s new preoccupation with fame distances her from Jack, and she also gets involved in an online flirtation with a fellow vlogger, which carries potential complications should the two meet in person.
Tash is heteromantic asexual, meaning she is susceptible to romantic attraction but completely disinterested in sex. This story is intensely focused on Tash’s process of self-discovery. Her beloved “Unhappy Families” is suddenly the focus of thousands of comments on YouTube, which causes her to question her creativity. Issues related to family life, friendship and romance are well-developed, explored through natural conversations among characters and through Tash’s proclivity for introspection. Readers who like the honesty of Jenny Han’s novels, combined with the creative, quirky characters in Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, will love this heartwarming novel. While it’s not necessary to have read Anna Karenina to appreciate the story, some familiarity with the characters and plot will definitely enhance the reading experience.
Diane Colson is the Library Director at City College in Gainesville, Florida.