All These Things I've Done
by Gabrielle Zevin
Published September 6th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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 accidentally 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
Having read several fine and not so fine specimens of the Dystopian YA genre, I'm a bit at a loss for what category to classify this book in. So many people like to speak to the validity of a good dystopia being dependent on the world-building fashioned by the author. Granted, logistics is something I tend to ignore and generally base a book's worth on how it made me feel. However, a strange thing happened to me in my reading of this book in that I got distracted by the poorly formed world loosely portrayed in the story but I had a very strong attachment to the book's characters. There in lies the problem.
The very choppy, sketchy, vague setting that is Zevin's 2083 post-whatever-awful-thing-happened world left me with so many what-ifs, buts and questions that it took every ounce of willpower I possess to keep myself in the story. My flighty little magpie attention span can present a real challenge for an author to completely suck me in. In a world with such sketchy outlines, with very little shading, my imagination didn't have much to run with, so I'd get bored, see something shiny and off my brain would go.
What kept me coming back was the main character, Anya Balanchine, a tough as nails, spitfire who would take on the world to save her family. Hers was a very isolated, lonely life. A life that finds her, at the age of only sixteen, the acting head of her household, and the heiress to a rather large, rather dangerous and very illegal family business. Chocolate is one of the few pointless, insignificant and ridiculous things that is outlawed in this dystopia, and the Balanchine's have made a fortune out of the illegal sale of it. She has a variety of things to contend with and none of them pleasant. For starters, she is raising her older brother and her younger sister; their legal guardian being a frail and failing grandmother who lives in a sort of make-shift home ICU and is kept alive on life support.
For the most part I was pleased with Anya's relationship with Win who is so charming and adorable that I'd forgive him for just about anything. I was also surprised to find myself 100% on his father's side. He is the very ambitious, driven new district attorney and he doesn't want his son dating the daughter of a notorious crime lord. He's also extremely likeable so it will be interesting to see how he turns out in the next book.
And yes, I'm on board for the sequel. I'm in it for Anya.
I meant to do this much earlier but life somehow caught up with me. A book fairy sent me an extra ARC of this book in the mail. I wanted to get it out to you sooner so someone would have the chance to enjoy it before the release (which is Tuesday) but better late than never! We'll make this a short one to make up for it:
ARC Giveaway Rules: