Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

Engrossing and suspenseful, All These Things I've Done is an utterly unique, unputdownable read that blends both the familiar and the fantastic.

I love discovering books at the library. Usually it happens like this: I’m browsing along, unsure of what I’m looking for, and I stumble across a title that makes me go “Oh yeah, I was going to pick that up.” I check it out, take it home, fall in love, and then wonder “WHY DIDN’T I PICK THIS UP SOONER?!?”

All These Things I’ve Done is one of those books.

The story follows Anya, the daughter of a mob boss and an average girl who is trying very, very hard to keep her family together despite her ailing grandmother, special needs brother, and precocious younger sister. Both of Anya’s parents are dead, victims of the chocolate industry that her family is works in. I know that sounds odd, but in Anya’s far-future version of New York City chocolate is illegal, so her family is pretty much the equivalent of bootleggers from the Prohibition Era.

What makes this story shine isn’t the plot (which tends a bit toward the generic) so much as Anya. She’s wry and has a bit of a femme fatale vibe to her. It isn’t her fault, though. The misdeeds of her family cause people to view her through the same lens: even though Anya has never done anything even remotely illegal she is the prime suspect when her ex-boyfriend suffers a nasty bout of poisoning from a bar of chocolate.

Anya’s personal interactions and the book’s noir-ish feel will appeal to readers of YA who are looking for something a bit different. I feel like this book has suffered the same fate as Anya to a degree: this came out the same time as a slew of dystopians, so instead of standing on it’s own I’m afraid that this got lumped in with the other far future books that came out at the time, for better or worse. But this most definitely isn’t a dystopian, and those who have post-apocalyptic survival fatigue will enjoy the world Zevin creates here.

I really enjoyed All These Things I’ve Done, enough to have gotten book two to read. Since I’m a fabulous quitter of trilogies (I’ve actually quit more than I’ve finished) this is really saying something. Fans of plucky girls, noir-ish settings, and something just a little bit different will really enjoy this book.

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