Monday, August 29, 2011

[Review] All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: All These Things I've Done {goodreads}
Authors: Gabrielle Zevin
Publication (dd/mm/yy): 03/09/11
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
RRP: $16.99
Source: For review from publisher (thanks!)
Age: 14+
Pages: 350
ISBN: 9780330537896
My Rating:

Summary:
Sixteen year-old Anya becomes the head of a mafia family after her parents are both murdered by rival gangs. Although Anya is embrolied in the criminal world, she is determined to keep her brother and sister out of the mafia family, but her father's relatives aren't so keen to let them go. When Anya's violent ex-boyfriend is poisoned with contaminated chocolate – chocolate that is produced illegally by Anya's mafia family – she is arrested for attempted murder and sent to the notorious jail on Manhattan Island.

Eventually she is freed by the new D.A. in town, who believs she has been framed. But this D.A. is the father of Win, a boy at school to whom Anya feels irresistibly drawn, and her freedom comes with conditions. Win's father wants to be mayor, and he can't risk having his ambition jeopardised by rumours spreading that his son is seeing a member of a notorious crime family. Anya knows she risks the safety of her family by seeing Win again, but the feeling between them may be too strong to resist...
My thoughts: 

It is the year 2082. Anya Balanchine gets a lot of attention at school, and from the media and cops. Her parents were murdered, making her, and her sister and brother, orphans. It was only a matter of time; they were leading men in an illegal chocolate smuggling business, and while they made lots of friends since the chocolate ban, they also made many enemies.

When a chocolate poisoning goes underway, Anya is deemed the top suspect. And why wouldn't she be, considering her seedy background and motive. The victim is her ex-boyfriend, to whom she dumped a tray of lasagne on just the other day. And things get complicated when she falls in love with the District Attorney's son.

---

First off, I love the boldness of the font for this book! Despite the dark tones, it makes the book very striking, something I would want to know more of if I saw this on a bookshelf. Do I like this more than the US cover? I think the US cover looks more like a Gabrielle Zevin cover. The chocolate heart would make me super hungry if I were to read it though. I don't love the girl's face on this cover: I didn't picture Anya with so much makeup on, though the actual features are pretty spot-on. Let's move on, shall we?

This book has the now well-known premise and hook: What if chocolate was illegal? It's hard to call this book a dystopian and despite the resource shortages, it is only 71 years in the future and there is not much of an idealised utopia happening over there. All These Things I've Done came off more to me as a romance/mystery/crime thriller YA novel, with a peek at the future.

ATTID is set in New York, and the coffee speakeasies in the book mirror the speakeasies of the '20s, so it was nice to see a clear link between past and future. And of course the chocolate smuggling and organised crime syndicates mirror ANYTHING where something has been banned or illegalised. Just kind of stating the obvious there, but I like being able to see a historical link in dystopian novels.

The plot was great; I could not stop reading it! Every chapter has a little heading/tagline thingy that made me curious and want to find out what happened next. While the fast-paced and riveting storyline consumed all my attention, I couldn't help wonder: why? Why has this society placed a ban on coffee and chocolate, and how did things come to be? [This is the reason I had to bump the book down to 4 stars] I'm just hoping that more will be explained in the next book.

Anya Balanchine is a realist and a practical person. This is HER story. Her strong, snarky personality leave much room for characterisation. The Anya at the end is far changed from the girl we meet at the beginning of the book. At only sixteen, Anya takes on so much crap that it's hard to comprehend how she doesn't just break down. Despite her devout Catholicism, so much goes wrong for her.

Other characters include the members of her immediate, and extended, family; her best friend Scarlet; Win, the DA's son; the DA; Yuji Ono, Anya's Japanese friend; and probably some more. For the most part, they were all great characters, and they really came to life. I can't wait to see what's in store for them all in the next book.

All These Things I've Done is written in first person, in Anya's perspective. At times she speaks directly to us, which I've never seen before in a YA novel. As my first Gabrielle Zevin novel, this really does set the bar high for her other books. Since I love contemporary as much as, or maybe even more than dystopian, there's no way I can be disappointed. :)

In All These Things I've Done, Zevin draws up a strong premise -- It is 2082 in New York and chocolate is ILLEGAL -- and matches it with a strong protagonist and cast. While the rationale behind such a decision for the society to make it so could have been explained, the speedy plot and star-crossed romance makes up for the missing piece in the story.

Quote:

First lines

"THE NIGHT BEFORE MY JUNIOR YEAR - I was sixteen, barely - Gable Arsley said he wanted to sleep with me. Not in the distant or semi-distant future either. Right then.
Admittedly, my taste in boys wasn't so great. I was attracted to the sort who weren't in the habit of asking permission to do anything. Boys like my father, I guess.

Favourites


"   'Why are you here?' I asked him.
   'That's an awfully big question, Anya.'
   'No, I meant here outside this office. What did you do wrong?'
   'Multiple choice,' he said. 'A. A few pointed comments made in Theology. B. The principal wants to have a chat with the new kid about wearing hats in school. C. My schedule. I'm just too darn smart for my classes. D. My eyewitness account of the girl who poured lasagne over her boyfriend's head. E. The principal's leaving her husband and wants to run away with me. F. None of the above. G. All of the above.'
   'Ex-boyfriend,' I murmured.
   'Good to know,' he said.

(p. 16 - this one's a biggie, but a goodie)

Win and Anya are in Forensic Science II together, and they are examining teeth for a project.

"   'I think you're right, Anya. Our girl was making herself sick.'
   I smiled at him. 'Her whole life story right there, waiting for us to read it.'
   He agreed. 'It's sad when you think about it, but also kind of beautiful.'
   It was a strange thing to say, I suppose. But I knew what he meant without having to ask. All these teeth had once been in real, live people. They had talked and smiled and eaten and sung and cursed and prayed. They had brushed and flossed and died. In English class, we read poems about death, but here, right in front of me, was a poem about death, too. Only this poem was true.

(p. 52)

"   'It's not tragic,' I assured her. 'This is nothing. Tragedy is when someone ends up dead. Everything else is just a bump in the road.' For the record, that was something Daddy used to say, but I'm pretty sure Shakespeare would have agreed, too.

(p. 178 - Shakespeare is still alive in 2082!)

Buy:

* cheapest Australian e-store price

AUSTRALIAN RESIDENTS

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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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