Anne of West Philly by Ivy Noelle Weir


Anne of West Philly by Ivy Noelle Weir
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Anne of Green Gables with a twist: in this follow-up to Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy and The Secret Garden on 81st Street, this full-color graphic novel moves Anne Shirley to modern-day West Philadelphia, where she finds new friends, new rivals, and a new family.

When Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert decide to foster a teenage girl for the first time, their lives are changed forever. Their redheaded foster daughter, Anne Shirley, is in search of an exciting life and has decided that West Philly is where she’s going to find it. Armed with a big personality and unstoppable creativity, Anne takes her new home by storm as she joins the robotics club, makes new friends in Diana and Gilbert, experiences first love, and turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. But as Anne starts to get comfortable, she discovers one thing she wasn’t looking for: a family.

No, you do not need to be familiar with the original Anne of Green Gables series to enjoy this retelling of it. Anyone who has read it before will receive some marvelous surprises here, though.

One of my favorite parts of reading this graphic novel was seeing how the same story can change in meaningful and exciting ways when it’s set in a different century. For example, Marilla and Matthew weren’t surprised to receive a girl instead of a boy this time around because their social worker talked to them about Anne in advance and worked hard to ensure the placement would be a successful one for all involved. Little moments like these popped up everywhere and provided the characters with faster resolutions to problems in some cases and brand new conflicts in others. As I said earlier, this is equally accessible for brand new and longtime fans of these characters, but I did have a wonderful time taking note of everything Ms. Weir changed in the plot order to better suit twenty-first century culture and technology. Some of her tweaks were quite clever, and nearly all of them suited the storyline beautifully.

On a related note, I was quite puzzled to see this tale set in West Philly as the original Anne Shirley never so much as visited the United States. I wish the author had gone into more detail about why she made this choice and how she thought it would affect the characters. If she simply wanted to choose a more diverse setting, why not pick one of Canada’s big cities instead? If L.M. Montgomery had some special connection to Philadelphia that most readers are unaware of, why wouldn’t that be made known in a preface? I so desperately wanted to give this five stars and would have if this hadn’t been a point of confusion for me.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. I love seeing how the characters reacted to Anne’s new placement and what she thought when she learned that her foster parents were siblings instead of a married couple. This acceptance of others and appreciation of diversity was repeated as Anne got to know other people in their neighborhood and settled into her new life. It was especially cool to see the nods to some long-standing fan theories about the sexual orientation of a certain character that was finally discussed openly here.

Anne of West Philly was a heartwarming read.

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