Annexed, a new Holocaust novel by Sharon Dogar, tells the Anne Frank story from the point of view of Peter Van Pels, the sixteen-year-old boy whose family moved into the annex on July 13, 1942 and lived there for two years, before discovery. Alternating with reports of his last days in the death camps, Peter reflects back upon his days spent with Anne from the perspective of one who is marching to his death from Auschwitz to the Mauthausen concentration camp.
When he first meets Anne, he thinks she is an annoying know-it-all. He struggles with the lack of privacy and the thought that he is missing out on so much of the teenage boy experience. He pouts, fights with his parents and questions God and religion. He confides in Anne and she accuses him of deserting the Jewish people. To this he replies, "I want so many things, but what I need is to know who I am. Because if I don't know that, I can only ever be what they say I am. A Jew." As Peter struggles to become a man in unthinkable circumstances, the reader witnesses through his first-person, present-tense narration, the day to day highs and lows in the Annex. Interspersed with his thoughts in the Mauthausen concentration camp, the days with Anne begin to seem idyllic and he wonders what happened to his parents and the Franks. The italicized death camp passages become more frequent as Peter's experiences in the Annex and at Mauthausen converge in death.
In an interview Sharon Dogar said she wanted to reimagine what it was like to live with Anne Frank. She laments that most of the people who lived through the Holocaust are dead and their stories are dying with them. She says that stories help to keep history alive. She is very careful to distinguish between fact and fiction and deals with lack of details in the diary to corroborate her story by having Peter ask Anne to keep their relationship out of her diary. While a prior reading of The Diary of a Young Girl is not necessary to reading Annexed, an understanding of that book will give readers the opportunity to see Anne Frank's story with Peter's hindsight. The story begins and ends with Peter asking, "Are you there? Are you listening?" I hope readers are.