All These Things I’ve Done – Book Review
(Book #1 of Birthright)
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.
I really enjoyed this book but I have to admit that I felt it got off to a slow start. The pace didn’t pick up until around a third of the way through but I really liked the premise of the novel being a dystopian mafia mixed with romance kind of story. However thanks to the book’s combination of great characters, plot twists and drama - I know I will definitely be reading the sequel.
Set in a futuristic New York where chocolate has become a banned substance, sixteen year old Anya is the daughter of a deceased but highly renowned crime boss whose family specialise in the illegal production and distribution of chocolate. Although Anya does her best to shun the family business and provide a safe and secure life for her brother and sister, inevitably she soon finds herself pulled into the darkness and danger of the mafia world. Especially when her ex-boyfriend is poisoned and Anya is named the number one suspect in the investigation of his potential murder.
However Anya turns out to have more allies than she thinks, but common sense tells her that getting romantically involved with the chief of polices’ son may not be one of her best idea. Especially when she learns that this new relationship threatens to destroy everything and everyone she’s worked so hard to protect. Her friends, her family, her future and even her hard won freedom. Is the love of one man really worth the risk of losing it all…?
I really did enjoy this story and although it was labelled a dystopian novel, to me it read more like a futuristic contemporary. However this made the story a uniquely refreshing read and with romantic, moral and often thrilling elements the book really grips a reader’s attention.
Told from Anya’s point of view, the author Gabrielle Zevin has created a character with a relatable voice and a unique narration. Anya is a strong and really admirable protagonist who due to the horrors of her past has a cynical but very practical way of looking at the world. She doesn’t believe in love at first sight and due to her family criminal connections, accepts the fact that people automatically assume she’s bad news. However what few people know is that (mostly) she tries to be a devout catholic, is very protective of her family and tries her best to stay out of trouble.
The other characters were also intriguing and well thought out. Leo, Anya’s disabled older brother, I found particularly sweet and I liked the warm and caring relationship Anya had with her all immediate family. The love interest Win was also a great character, charming and flirty, he had his quirks but most of all I loved how naive and sheltered he was compared to Anya – who was normally the voice of reason in their relationship.
This of course brings me on to the romance within the story which I thought had a very Romeo and Juliet feel to it. With their families divided and standing on to very different sides of the law, Anya and Win had to overcome many obstacles in order to be together and it was sweet watching how their relationship developed. Her dark past against his light-hearted dreams of the future formed a nice balance in their relationship and I’m looking forward to seeing how things between these characters will further progress.
So overall I found All These Things I’ve Done to be a thrilling and somewhat different read to what I was expecting. It isn’t written like most dystopian novels so I think readers will find it distinctly refreshing. 3 1/2 stars!