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.
I was very excited to dig into the world of All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin after discovering that in this futuristic world, chocolate is contraband. Who can imagine it? Add a dose of mafia involvement and you've got one awesome novel.
Because of its premise, All These Things I've Done sets itself apart in a genre saturated in star-crossed romances and inexplicably supernatural occurences (not that I'm opposed to those themes), and I couldn't help but admire Zevin's imagination. There aren't many crime novels showcased in young adult fiction at the moment (to my knowledge), and I found this utterly intriguing.
Anya Balanchine finds herself in a challenging position, as she is, pretty much, the guardian of her sister, Natty, sickly brother Leo, and her grandmother. She carries a great load on her shoulders, and is forced to oblige outside forces, as well as members of her family who could pose a threat to them at any given moment. Anya is a love/hate character; you either jump into her POV loving her sarcasm, indifference, and growth over time, or you find her to be sarcastic and indifferent emotionally. I loved that she is incredibly strong-willed, courageous, and protective over those she loves. Anya can also be a bit selfish at times which caused me to want to shake her, nevertheless, I found her seeming indifference to be believable of her character, and a bit refreshing in an idealistic genre. Anya's voice is clever, sarcastic, and witty, adding a great tone to the novel.
Goodwin Delacroix, or Win, is a brilliant character. I loved his wit and tenderness with Anya. He is persistent, even in the midst of Anya's brush-offs, and you have to give a guy like this some credit! He and Anya have an interesting romance to follow, but I will say that there were moments that I felt a bit disconnected from them. Perhaps, this is also because Anya is discovering this form of love for the first time. I loved that Anya's crime family connections, and Win's political family connections gave the novel a kind of Romeo and Juliet feel. As this series progresses, I can't even predict what could happen between these two, as Zevin has created such an intricate story-line.
I LOVED Leo, for his innocence, and desire to protect his family. He can be heartbreaking because the world looks down on him. He means such good that he'll slip right into your heart even when he makes undoubtably wrong decisions. Natty is wise beyond her years, and Scarlet, Anya's best friend, is fun and loyal to Anya and her family. Yuji Ono, an heir of a japanese chocolate mafia family is truly the enigma of the entire shebang. I'm most excited to see how he factors in the series, because I have a feeling that he will play a monumental part in this saga. While reading, I found myself drawn to the ins and outs of the Balanchine family, and wanted to discover who decided to produce black market chocolate, how deeply their ties run throughout the world, and who would be the next member to rise up and cause internal discord.
Zevin has created a wonderful futuristic New York. As a New Yorker, I love juxtaposing the present city, with her portrayal. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has become a night club, Coney Island is abandoned, save a rebellious few who pull strings from time to time, The Statue of Liberty is now a detention center (how fitting)...pure genius.
Bare in Mind: All These Things I've Done contains scenes depicting slight violence and slight sensuality.
Overall, I find All These Things I've Done to be a peculiar little novel that may not be for everyone, but is too intriguing to pass on. I believe that it will have a 'cult' like following because of its uniqueness. The novel reads a bit slow at times, but carries you through to a satisfyingly pulsing end. Its' allure really cannot be explained, but I think everyone should experience it for themselves. I'm so excited to start on the next in the Birthright series, Because It Is My Blood.
I give All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin 4 out of 5 cups of rich Mayan Chocolate.
My chocolate bar of choice during this experience: Vosges Red Fire Exotic Chocolate Bar.