All These Things I’ve Done
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Series: Birthright #1
Published: 2011 by Farrar Straus Giroux
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.
"The night before junior year – I was sixteen, barely – Gable Arsley said he wanted to sleep with me."
What a beginning, huh? From the first sentence I was hooked. Is this girl a bit … loose? Does she say yes? What kind of guy is this Gable? Where is this going? What will this reveal? Such a fascinating opener. I quickly devoured this book.
The story of Anya is pretty straightforward. Her father was in the mafiya, but now he’s dead. She’s trying to get through school, keep her siblings safe, and take care of her dying Grandma. Also she has a good supply of chocolate, which is essentially illegal. Oh, and her relatives keep shouting the word “birthright” at her. When her ex-boyfriend gets poisoned from her family’s chocolate, she finds herself on an ugly stage. Suddenly she has to deal with more issues than usual.
I’ll be the first to admit that the plotline of this story was slack. There wasn’t any obvious over-arching story plan except the character’s relationships with each other, and her relatives being pushy. But despite this, I was completely hooked. I’m not sure what made it so addicting, but I had to find out what happened next. It’s almost like a TV show, in the sense that things keep happening, but not all of them add to the overall plot direction.
Anya was complex. I’m not sure if her character was just written poorly, or if she was supposed to have so many different sides to her, but it was intriguing regardless. She was tough when she needed to be, and caring when that was appropriate. But mostly she was strangely jaded for such a young person, world-weary and blunt. UGH, I can’t seem to express what I’m trying to say, but basically she’d toughened up a lot in her years. It was difficult for her to handle all that she had on her plate. She’d lived through SO MUCH CRAP (her dad shot right next to her, her mom dying, her brother becoming mentally injured, etc.). No wonder she was the way she was.
Win and Scarlett are my favorite characters. Win is so charming, lovely, and awesome, he’s one of my new favorite fictional YA guys. Scarlett WAS winning the award for most awesome best friend, until she did that thing (if you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about). But I still like her.
I’ve seen some negative reviews for this book, I think mostly about Anya and the plotline, but even with those slight hiccups, I really loved this book! I enjoyed the world Ms. Zevin created, and I adored the side characters. It was very addicting, and I can’t wait for the sequel! :)
Content Warning: Kissing, pressure to have sex, language.