And I don't mean it as the same place with vampires, werewolves or other supernatural creatures you can think of. It's the world of the mob, the mafia, the seedy, the illegal, the dangerous place where families rule the unpleasant and have access to what is forbidden. When chocolate was made illegal, what happens to the very family whose livelihood comes from it?
Title: All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1) by Gabrielle Zevin
Release Date: September 6th 2011
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository
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.
Can you imagine a world without chocolate? Welcome to the year 2083, where things we never thought we would be without (coffee, paper and chocolate) are now illegal or hard to find. Crime is rampant and Anya, daughter of a murdered crime boss has her plate full taking care of a brother who wouldn't grow up, a younger sister and a grandmother teetering on the edge of life. Her boyfriend tried to take advantage of her and after a huge fight, he almost died by eating the very chocolate her family's company once produce. Worse, Anya's falling in love with the one person she shouldn't: the new District Attorney's son.
Anya is a one of a kind girl. She's a fighter, one who has been toughened by the things she has seen and has went through as the eldest daughter of a powerful man. Fiercely protective of what was left of her family, Anya tries to live on through the lessons her father has taught her. It's not easy to try to do good when all you've been surrounded with all your life is crime. The cold, hard shell she projects just makes me want to give her a hug. If there was only someone to protect her. It makes my heart ache. The current state of New York, her home, forced her to take on everything. Who can she turn to other than herself? Gabrielle Zevin wrote of a heroine who doesn't always play by the rules, but she's one who will lay her life for her family no questions asked.
Anya and Win's relationship felt a little like Romeo and Juliet. Starcrossed. Doomed to fail, but determined to defy the odds. So bad, it's good. Them against the world. Their relationship should've been simple, but the world they move in were just too different. I detested Win's father. Call me a romantic, but can't he just let his son be happy? Future or not, you will still see how people would like to maintain appearances and protect their reputations, even when it means sacrificing emotions and manipulating people like Anya to get what they want.
I was expecting to see a world influenced directly by the lack of chocolate and caffeine. The concept treating chocolates and caffeine like contraband is definitely interesting and I really wish this concept could have been explored in detail, because it's what gives the story more intrigue. However, Gabrielle Zevin presented it in a different angle that made the story unique in itself. A darker, secretive and more dangerous way. The inner workings and machinations surrounding a family of mobster, whose legacy revolves around things dangerous and not necessarily legal is evident in All These Things I've Done. Who knew chocolate can be so deadly?
What I loved the most in this novel, however, is the interesting portrait Anya's Nana presents. It's weird to see this generation, our current generation, being described to a future character like Anya in detail by someone from a time that has long since passed. Two different generations co-existing together even for a brief moment. You see the choices made by the generation before Anya affecting what became of the future then. The moments Anya and her Nana had, the sharing of experiences and tales of a time long gone is something teens should read. It's a unique way of showing teens just how choices made by those that lived before them shaped what is their present and it's up to them to make the changes if they want to make the world a better place.
All These Things I've Done is a wonderful mix of mystery, crime, dystopia and the complicated dynamics of family and relationships. With a gripping plot and characters that will make your heart ache so much you thought it will burst, All These Things I've Done is as bittersweet as and addicting as the Balanchine chocolates. What if the things you love is prohibited? Are you willing to commit a crime to obtain them? Something different to sink your teeth into. Definitely a great read!
Content (plot, story flow, character):
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I want chocolates now...
I want chocolates now...
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.