Thursday, 29 March 2012
Review: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Panmacmillan Children's Books
Released: 29th March 2012
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 think a lot of people read that description and expect a dystopian. But it isn't. It's so much more. All These Things I've Done is a contemporary story set against the backdrop of a vaguely dystopian and alltogether possible future.
You know when you pick up a book and immediately know you're going to love it? That's how I felt reading this. Anya is a hilarious storyteller, I loved how the narration is as though she's writing down her story from the future. She's strong, determined and very loving. Essentially, she's easy to adore. I loved her snarky commentary, her sarcastic asides and just how hard she works to keep her family together and free from the influences of her relatives. She's definitely my favourite heroine of 2012 so far, and is right up there in my list with Dru from Strange Angels and Mae from The Demon's Lexicon.
Win was just....fantastic. Quirky, loyal and idealistic he was as funny and intelligent as Anya was. I loved watching them both develop individually and as a pair, and their relationship felt like any other teen relationship would, albeit with the added strains of forbidden love and their unusual family circumstances. I loved how Gabrielle Zevin unconsciously tackled the issue of sex, Anya is a Catholic girl yet she didn't shy away from outlining the temptations Win presented and her struggles to decide the right course of action. I liked how she was careful with her emotions, almost to the point of being too careful, it added another dimension to this element of the plot. All the secondary characters were fantastic; Zevin has a real gift for writing a wide range of complicated and involved personalities, something I noticed in her previous novel Elsewhere. From Anya's siblings to her best friend Scarlet to her extended family, everyone was fleshed out, even the more unsavoury characters.
Gabrielle Zevin's writing was a really enjoyable aspect of the book. She really captured Anya's voice, but also the voices of everyone around her. My one slight complaint was that Natty often sounded older than her 12 years, but given her circumstances and what she's lived through, maybe that was accurate. I loved the chapter headings which were really funny, and the prose was snappy, well-paced and evocative.
What I really enjoyed was seeing how Anya does struggle to balance everything in her life. At 16 she has a heck of a lot of responsibility, and a lot to deal with. As a result things do get away from her, and certain situations spiral out of her control. Whilst it was painful to experience, it did feel a lot more realistic. Anya does what she has to do and yet, being her age there ARE limitations to what she can achieve, and consequences to her actions, and this element of the plot was very realistic and very empthy-provoking. I did have a lump in my throat by the end because, despite Anya's best intentions and every effort, no 16 year old could manage what she had to manage, and you can't help but feel sorry for the situation she's ended up in.
This isn't a gritty, fast-paced dystopian. It's a moving and unashamed account of one girls attempt to get to grips with everything going on in her life, to do the best for herself and those in her care, and to get the chance to live whilst she does it. All I can say is it's going to be a long wait for book 2.
I don't often comment on covers, but I DO wish they'd kept the original cover choice for this book. I DO like the new one but I think it perpetuates the idea that this is really futuristic and dystopian when really it isn't. The original UK cover (---->) is much more eyecatching and content-appropriate in my opinion and I'm really sad it was changed.
Have you read this yet? If so, what was your take on it? Did you like Anya as much as I did or were you disappointed by the lack of dystopian elements? Let me know in the comments!