Friday, February 14, 2014

Review: Because it is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

Freed from jail, Anya hopes that things will get back to normal. But life on the outside is even more dangerous than life behind bars. Some of her gangland family want revenge for the crime for which she has done time: the shooting of her uncle.

Forced to flee the country, Anya hides out in a cacao plantation in Mexico. There she learns the secrets of the chocolate trade, a trade that is illegal and deadly in her native New York. There too she discovers that seemingly random acts of violence carried out across the world have a single target: her family. As innocent bystanders get caught in the crossfire Anya must act fast and decisively to stop it, no matter what the danger to herself.

Because it is My Blood is book two in the Birthright Trilogy, so this review is naturally going to have some spoilers.

This book picks up right where All These Things I Have Done leaves off, namely with Anya in jail and still trying to escape the taint of her family’s mob connections. This book was just as enjoyable as book one, although I’m afraid it suffered a bit from what I consider “middle book” syndrome. That is, this book felt more like a set up for book three than a complete story in its own right.

After being released from Liberty Children’s Facility Anya is a bit at loose ends. Her brother is still in Japan, her sister is a certified genius and has skipped several grades in school, and Anya has been kicked out of school with no hope of getting into another one, due to her record. It’s a pretty hopeless situation, and Anya is definitely having trouble adjusting.

I really liked being back in the world Zevin created, but I felt that this book felt much choppier and episodic than the first book. There’s a feeling of disconnection in this story, and whether that’s intentional (Anya is definitely uprooted at one point in the book when she dashes off to Mexico to escape another stint in Liberty) or not, I’m not sure. Overall I really enjoyed this book, but readers who had trouble connecting with Anya in book one definitely aren’t going to want to spend 300+ pages with her in this book. Why? Because while Anya seems to make a lot of bad decisions in book one on behalf of her family, her reasons in this book feel a lot more selfish. It’s no longer clear whether she’s making decisions because it’s what’s best for her family or if it’s because of her own narrow worldview.

All in all, this book really serves to set up book three, since the overarching mystery of the book is solved but unresolved (the bad guy goes free, Anya is set on a course that seems contrived to separate her from Win yet again, and nothing is actually finished) much like real life. If this book were a stand alone I would have been frustrated and disappointed, but since this is the bridge book in a trilogy I gave it quite a bit of latitude. The writing is equally as good as in book one, although this book feels like much, much less actually happens.

I enjoyed this book just as much as the first book and I look forward to reading book three. Because it is My Blood will appeal to fans of book one, but those who didn’t like the first book won’t find anything different enough here to convince them to keep reading.

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