Thursday, 29 March 2012

Review: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1) by Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Panmacmillan Children's Books
Released: 29th March 2012
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Description:

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.

My thoughts:

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!


  1. We could have had that cover...I didn't know that. I don't think this new one really makes it seem more dystopian, but agreed that the first one is a lot more eye catching. Glad you liked it-I agree with pretty much everything you said. Aside from the bit about Anya being like the girl from The Demon's Lexicon. I've not read that. But if she's anything like Dru and Anya, I'll love her. Good review!

  2. This is on of the Zevin books I don't have. I haven't read any, though. I'm eager to try one and hopefully I can get my hands on this one.

  3. The original UK cover looks like the head is just floating there... creepy. O___o I like the US covers with the melting chocolate heart; it reminds me of a contemporary novel, instead of a dystopian (which was one thing that kept throwing me off when it first released; whenever somebody said it was a dystopian, I would stop and think, "oh, right. not contemporary.")

    I actually haven't read this one, but it's on my list of books to read! I've heard good and bad things about it, but I love Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere, which made me cry and feel all the things.

    great review!

    Ashelynn @ Gypsy Book Reviews.

    1. Aww nuu Ashelynn I LOVE the original haha. I adored Elsewhere...fantastic book. You definitely need to read this one!

  4. I love the original UK cover. I think it's really pretty. This book sounds awesome. I have been wanting to read it, but haven't had time to. It's definitely on my TBR list though. I am glad the the characters are very well written. That's a major thing for me in a book. I like to have a good plot too, but I need to connect with the characters. Great review!

  5. Oh, definitely agree with the cover comparison. I didn't even realize they'd changed it! That's too bad... I really like the original. The colour scheme is eye-catching without being flashy and the new one just doesn't hold that appeal for me.

    ANYWAYS. Great review! :D It's been a while since I've heard anything about this book and it's always kind of nice to get reminder buzz. I definitely need to check this one out soon! I find I tend to like the quieter novels (as well as the more action-based ones, it's just that the less BAM BAM BAM ones don't usually bother me) and so I think I'd be a good fit for this book!

    It would, of course, be a very frightening situation. I mean...

    no chocolate.

    Great review! <3


  6. Amazing review!! This book is on my wishlist, thanks for the awesome review!!

    Beth xx

    P.S: I love this blog!! New follower! ;)

  7. I'm a huge fan of Zevin's Elsewhere, so I'm reaaaaaaally looking forward to reading this one! Thanks for the fab review, Cait ;) And I think I prefer the US cover over both UK ones, haha!

  8. I did NOT realise they changed the covers! I totally agree with you, I much prefer the old UK/AUS one, which is the cover I have so... bleh, the sequel will look out of place now. Boo.

    Anyway, love your review! And I so enjoyed this book. It's been a few months since I read it, so you have successfully managed to reinvigorate my excitement for book two :D I really admired Anya, she was kind of a breath of fresh air compared to some other YA protagonists. Plus the story itself was very addictive, I found it hard to put down!

  9. you know I loved this one! Awesome review as usual Cait! :D


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