Author: Gregory Galloway
First Published: March 1, 2005
Genres: Coming of Age, Young Adult
Format: eBook, Hardcover
Anna—who prefers to be called Anastasia—is a slightly spooky and complicated high school girl with a penchant for riddles, Houdini tricks, and ghost stories. She spends much of her time writing obituaries for every living person in town. She is unlike anyone the narrator has ever known, and they make an unlikely, though happy, pair.
Then a week before Valentine's Day, Anna disappears, leaving behind only a dress placed neatly near a hole in the frozen river, and a string of unanswered questions. Desperate to find her, or at least to comprehend what happened and why, the narrator begins to reconstruct the past five months. And soon the fragments of curious events, intimate conversations, secrets, and peculiar letters (and the anonymous messages that continue to arrive) coalesce into haunting and surprising revelations that may implicate friends, relatives, and even Anna herself.
As Simple as Snow is a young adult coming of age story about an average teenage boy and his brief and turbulent relationship with his goth girlfriend, Anna. The book is labeled as a mystery but I honestly don’t see it that way. In fact, I think that this book is hideously mismarketed as a mystery novel. Galloway himself ran a website for a while where he interacted with readers and would give them further clues to the “mystery.”
It has been over a decade and there hasn’t been any real answer to what happened to Anna. The reason why was that the mystery was never meant to be solved, it’s a game like the ones played by Anna in the story. All of the hints within the story and teased by the author are red herrings. The mystery is not actually what the story is about.
“The past is a river. It flows. It winds around, coursing through my memory until it arrives in the present. It looks the same, but everything has changed, different waves making up the same water.”
The narrator is intentionally ambiguous so as to make him relatable to the average teenage reader. While everyone may think of themselves as unique, quirky, or cool, if we stop to take a good hard look at ourselves, I think that many of us feel that we’re pretty average. We go out of our way to conform to an idea of what we’d like to be. I appreciated the narrator because he is a perfect representation of that feeling of uncertainty, of not being able to fit in, of feeling like an outcast; an experience shared by many young adults stumbling through high school.
The narrator is defined by his malleability, whether he realizes it or not. When he meets Anna he thinks she’s weird, but quickly finds himself drawn to her. She has a personality that is exciting to him, and steadily he begins to mold himself to her, playing all of the little games that she creates no matter how ridiculous. At first glance, they may seem like an ideal relationship of opposites, but as I read I began to question the romance.
“I began to think of Anna as a bad force in my life. I had never thought that way before, but nothing seemed to be going right. Instead, the days kept getting stranger and stranger.”
The important facet of the narrator and Anna’s relationship really was that Anna became an overwhelming force in his life. While the narrator is a supportive and stabilizing figure for Anna, she was not necessarily a positive influence on him. Her disappearance understandably leaves him distraught, and the second half of the novel picks up speed as the narrator starts to question his life without Anna as a guide. In her absence, the things that seemed special to them were really not all that special, and the narrator realizes that he has choices in his life, if only he would just make them.
I have to admit that this book took me several months to finish. It’s not that the writing was bad, quite the opposite in fact. The first half of the novel is painstakingly slow as the relationship between the narrator and Anna is developed. It seems benign at first, and I had begun to wonder where the story was going or why so much time was spent on the duo’s everyday interactions. It wasn’t until the end of the book and for a few days after that the message of the story really sunk in, and the careful buildup at the start made so much more sense.
I can see why this book is a favorite of my husband’s and why it has captivated readers despite its relative obscurity. While I found it frustrating at times, I ended up enjoying this slow burn of a novel. I cautiously recommend it with an extra reminder not to go in with expectations of a mystery.