"It takes nothing to say you love a person when she's perfect..." BOOK REVIEW | In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin

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All These Things I’ve Done, the first novel in the Birthright series, introduced us to timeless heroine Anya Balanchine, a plucky sixteen year old with the heart of a girl and the responsibilities of a grown woman. Now eighteen, life has been more bitter than sweet for Anya. She has lost her parents and her grandmother, and has spent the better part of her high school years in trouble with the law. Perhaps hardest of all, her decision to open a nightclub with her old nemesis Charles Delacroix has cost Anya her relationship with Win. Still, it is Anya’s nature to soldier on. She puts the loss of Win behind her and focuses on her work. Against the odds, the nightclub becomes an enormous success, and Anya feels like she is on her way and that nothing will ever go wrong for her again. But after a terrible misjudgment leaves Anya fighting for her life, she is forced to reckon with her choices and to let people help her for the first time in her life. In the Age of Love and Chocolate is the story of growing up and learning what love really is. It showcases the best of Gabrielle Zevin’s writing for young adults: the intricate characterization of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and the big-heartedness of Elsewhere. It will make you remember why you loved her writing in the first place. -Amazon

Dear Blue,

Sending loads of love and a nice bar of Dark Room chocolate!

Anya Balanchine and friends are my wayward distant family who only visit once in a while, bearing epic stories of drastic proportions. And like family, they can do pretty much whatever they'd like (within reason), and I'd still love them. With, In The Age of Love and Chocolate, Gabrielle Zevin brings Anya full circle, revealing a mature entrepreneur who finally seems at peace with the path her life is taking. She's successful, a wonderful guardian to her younger sister, Natty, and a supportive friend, however, certain 'mafiya' ties begin to seep slowly into her life once more, awakening regrets, and furthermore threatening her life. Threats aside, the one lesson that proves more precarious than them all, is the battle that wages inside  herself to accept love, and stop punishing herself for her past decisions.

I tend to have highly romantic sentiments. I've had them ever since I was little and became quite taken with the idea that people can mean more to each other than day to day sincerity. But, I also battle with a more cynical side that questions everything quietly. This is what I most adore about Ms. Anya Balanchine. She holds a character that seems to be lacking in young adult literature. Most heroine's seem to have overwhelming romantic sensibilities, or the facade of angst, that gives way to ruminating constantly on their love interests. Don't get me wrong, I'm not pro superfluous angst. I quite love characters that share the balance. But Anya's real, and the more positive side of the way she thinks is that she is not all love and no accomplishment. She has ambitious goals, and is unwilling to give them up, even if it means giving up (though reluctantly) the one she loves.  She likes to think love exists, but the realities she's been exposed to at such a young age prevents her from seeing the sunnier side of the street. She never reads as some kid whining to be whining, and I really appreciated this. I most love the growth that Gabrielle Zevin brings about in her so beautifully. I get the feeling that Zevin had quite a bit of fun throwing Anya's life in the garbage disposal for three novels, but to tie it all together in a rich 'Zevin'tine' dark...priceless.

Along with growth, Gabrielle Zevin packs as much action, and out of pocket scenarios as always for a fast paced, exciting read. This action is what I've come to love about the Birthright series in the first place. I always felt as if I could never come close to predicting what would happen. Like Mr. Delacroix. He's one of the most spectacular things to happen to this novel. Such a portrait of what it means to forgive.

All of the above said, I can't think of a better way to end this series. I literally got every single thing I could've wanted (in a non Breaking Dawn kind of way). Truth be told, all I cared about was my darling Yuji Ono. From the first novel, Yuji struck a smooth, dangerous chord with me that refused to let up. He is the Peeta of the Birthright series. Not because they both have the same personalities (in fact they might even be polar opposites), but out of the cast of possible love interests, Yuji's the only one who can truly sympathize with what being in a mafiya family means. Win, however, is extraordinarily special because he causes Anya to snap out of herself, and embrace a happiness she never thought possible. Win is Peeta in personality and action (I'm just taking this opportunity to brag about Peeta as much as possible before the premiere of Catching Fire... and now back to your regularly scheduled programming).

Bare in mind: In The Age of Love and Chocolate contains violence.

It's so rare to find a great unconventional story that both grabs your attention like a comet, and is also filled with a subtly greater message. The Birthright Series is that story. It's been such a treat lingering in this awesome futuristic New York City, and I'm really gonna miss it!

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Let's head to a cafe and fangirl over 5 cups of Theobromas.

Hugs and love,

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