Series: Birthright #1
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux (BYR) on September 6th 2011
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.
I can't quite imagine a world where coffee and chocolate are illegal, so this intrigued me right off when I heard the premise. I pegged it for a dystopian, but when I started to listen to the audiobook it wasn't quite like other dystopians I've read of late. Anya's voice starts off strong and I dove into the book wanting to know more of her story.
A life of no chocolate just seems wrong. Coffee… I can live without. But chocolate.. NEVER. The ideas of All These Things I've Done instantly drove me towards this book. Wondering what would make our society this way. Plus a touch of dystopian never hurts.
Zevin hits hard with her narration. Anya, our MC, is a girl who is stuck in-between worlds. A girl that struggles to overcome her past, but no matter what she does, it always has a way of catching up to her. I found myself instantly bonding with her. She is tough on the outside, but so much more inside.
Parts of me really, really loved this book. I loved the premise. The danger of the society. The coming of age for a crime boss' daughter. All of this was fantastic. All These Things I've Done is a suburbly written book. Zevin does a wonderful job of creating a world unlike anything I have ever seen. If not for the horrid foreshadowing moments, I would be singing the books praises from the highest roof top. But due to that, my enjoyment level was knocked down a few pegs. Would I still recommend it? Absolutely. I really enjoyed the book even with its flaws.
But there was a problem. A major one that I found hard to overcome. Anya's voice. Well, maybe not her voice so much as the way that she narrates. The book is written at times as if in the present. Others like she is looking back at her life and examining it. It is those looking back times that drove me CRAZY. I am the kind of reader that does not usually mind the doom and gloom foreshadowing statements. All These Things I've Done is filled with them. And they come at the worst moments. Instead of going along for the ride, falling in love as Anya does, readers get a fantastic moment followed up by a doom and gloom statement. Such as (paraphrasing), 'I knew this was the last time we were going to be happy again.' It was just plain frustrating.
All These Things I've Done was a pleasant read.. flaws and all. Zevin knows how to create a world that is completely original. Not too much of this… or lacking that. It was a nice even balance. I did have a few issues with the book as a whole, but those were more personal tastes than poor writing or development. Would I recommend the book? Absolutely.