Release Date: September 1st 2011
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
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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.Anya is a very likable, level-headed character. She's got a strong self of will and a good head on her shoulders. She has to, given the fact that she's had to take on the role of mother hen in her family. Both her parents are dead - her father murdered and her mother killed in an accident intended for her father. An accident which left older brother Leo with an intellectual disability. So Anya has a responsibility to not only look after Leo, who despite his limitations, is deeply loyal to his family and such a sweet boy, but her bright and endearing little sister Natty and their dying grandma. Oh and did I mention her father was a criminal who headed the black market trade for illegal Balanchine chocolate? Yeah, playing mother to her siblings is hard enough, doing so in a mafia family is even harder. She's certainly not your average 16 year old.
So being accused of attempted murder and the following whirlwind of events and impossible choices that follow don't seem all that unlikely given the world she lives in. Especially the complications that come attached with falling in love with the son of the new District Attorney. The DA doesn't exactly approve of his son dating the daughter of a crime lord, deceased or not. Goodwin (better known as Win) was a worthy love interest and I really liked how the relationship slowly formed between the pair. Anya is not the kind of girl to go all swoony over a guy. She's very cautious and logical. But a 16 year old shouldn't have to wonder whether having a boyfriend will put her family in danger. The impossibility of ever allowing herself to divulge in life's pleasures, be a normal teen, does make it easy to sympathise. Yet she's not the self-pitying, weepy kind of girl. Her personality made for a refreshing narration.
Zevin weaves the dystopia element in very realistically. Resources are growing more and more scarce, everything requires vouchers or permits. Even sending an email, you have to pay postage. Go into any store. Look around your home. Anywhere. Everywhere. There is just so much STUFF in our lives. Things for the sake of things, hardly necessities or vital to our survival. We're such gluttons and it's easy to imagine a world like this in our future, where rules and regulations need to be put in place to preserve dwindling resources. And with such laws, of course, will come black market trades. Just like Anya's family dealing in the chocolate industry. How many of you chocoholics out there would survive a future with no chocolate? No wonder the Balanchine's do such good trade!
I did wonder why the likes of chocolate were illegal yet alcohol was not only freely available to adults, but even children of any age. It wasn't big enough to deter me from the story, just a minor point that made my brow furrow. Also I have to note, since this is set in the year 2083, the 2011 generation of teen are now elderly and it was amusing to imagine Grandparents using terms like "OMG". Not really something you associate with 80 year olds these days!
All These Things I've Done is an engaging novel that will sweep you up in a Anya's world of loyalty, love and danger. No choice is easy and without consequence. And no matter how much she tries to distance herself from the business of her father, there is no getting around the fact that she carries the Balanchine name and with it, the responsibilities it demands. Just like a block of chocolate, where you eat a square and find yourself consuming nearly the entire block before you can blink, All These Things I've Done is addicting from the very first bite and you'll find it hard to put it down until you've devoured it all.
4/5 Golden Apples