15 July 2014

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 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.

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

I read Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and had attempted Elsewhere but overall, Gabrielle Zevin wasn't on my list of all-time favorite authors, or even authors whose work I would check out again.  So it was with more than a little skepticism that I pulled All These Things I've Done off the shelf of my local library.  The very cover captured my interest: chocolate is contraband, caffeine illegal?  Already, my spidey-senses were tingling.  What All These Things I've Done accomplished was deepen my suspicion of the dystopian genre.

In a word, sassy.  From the main character -- Anya (or Annie) Balanchine, daughter of murdered chocolate crime boss -- to the romance to the world.  Everything was electric with attitude and rife with the possibility that anything could happen at any moment.  Maybe there'll be a rush of teen romance, or maybe someone will die.  Maybe both?

Clever from the dialogue to the politics to the world, my only complaint was the writing style.  The journal-like prose wasn't exactly unattractive but it was jarring at times, because suddenly my easy reading pace would be interrupted with phrases like "I mentioned about a hundred pages ago et cetera" and "I'll get to this later."  To me, if you're going to break down the fourth wall, you've gotta go big or go home, and Gabrielle Zevin didn't seem to really hit this on the head.  But I loved Anya's voice, because she was so easy to get behind.

With its clever premise that delivers fully on the awesomeness and the damaged but cheerworthy main character, All These Things I've Done far outstrips the big hits in today's dystopian YA fiction.  It is a story that explores, among other things, what it means to protect family and how far should you go to keep a promise, and what sacrifices you're willing to make.

What gets me like an iron poker to the ribs is why this book isn't at the top of the NYT bestselling list and having a movie made of it and being adored worldwide.  If someone were to ask me for the most underrated book I've read, it would be this: All These Things I've Done.  Gabrielle Zevin created an utterly unique world with realistic characters that would rival any NYT bestseller today.

"Stop saying that! You sound absurd, and I don't even think you mean it. Besides, I'd never marry you," I told him. "I'm sixteen, and you're a slut, and you can't stop saying preposterous things!"

"True," he admitted. He kissed me on the lips and then I closed the door."
I did learn something about insanity while I was down there. People go crazy, not because they are crazy, but because it's the best available option at the time.
"I shouldn't have done that," I said.

That was when I kissed him again.

May God forgive me for this and all these things I've done.
Book Info
  • pages -  hardcover, 354
  • published - September 2011
  • publisher - Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • genre - dystopian
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Birthright
    • All These Things I've Done
    • Because It Is My Blood
    • In the Age of Love and Chocolate