Tuesday, September 6, 2011

all these things i’ve done by Gabrielle Zevin

All These Things I've DoneView a preview of this book online

All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1)

Quoted from the book cover:  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.


This book is narrated by Anya, the daughter of a deceased crime boss in the year 2083. Generally, I don't care for books written in the first person, it is a difficult style to write. However, I liked it in this case. It was effective and instantly provided a connection between the reader and anya. The author , Gabrielle Zevin, gives voice to Anya that rings true. She is as a 16 year old, with a wonderfully diverse vocabulary and just a touch of humor that remains humerus and not corny, annoying or distracting from the story she is telling.

Set in a world that is battling shortages of every type with extremely restrictive laws that are enacted as a result of the shortages, the setting itself should get young adult readers to consider the potential of this future world becoming a reality. While, this sounds ominous, it doesn't translate this way to the reader. Anya deals with these background issues in such a way that the result is not a scary, dark and despairing world, but one that is thought provoking. Other reviews have criticized this book for not being “dystopian”, but you need to remember the audience that this is written for. Think of it as intro to dystopia. There are some religious overtones. Anya is a Catholic and attends a Catholic school. She is not out to convert others, the religion simply provides a basis for her moral code and faith in a world that could seem pretty dim without it.

Anya is strong and intelligent, yet flawed and impulsive at times. After all, she is a sixteen year old. She is a character that I hope young female readers will relate to. Anya does quote her deceased Father frequently. Some may find these “Daddisms” to be annoying, however I felt that they were a reminder of how much she loved and missed her Father. Some of the quotes were actually quite good.

While Anya has a “love interest”, while there is no graphic sex, there are some sexual situations. Anya has vowed to wait until marriage before having sex. There are a few scenes where the couple let their raging hormones loose, but in the end they honor her vow. She is also pressured to have sex by another boy. Parents may want to preview this book before passing it on to their children. In comparison with the Twilight Series, this book has less sexually charged situations. Zevin handles Anya's sexuality with discretion yet, she doesn't compromise the story or her characters by omitting Anya's sexual feelings from the novel. For this reason, I would recommend this book for an audience a bit older than the age of 12, possibly 14 or 15.

The other characters are just as well written as Anya. They are interesting and a little quirky. The plot is unique and the short chapters keep the story flowing at a fairly fast pace. I love that the chapters have titles and the book has a table of contents! It provides just enough foreshadowing to keep the reader intrigued!

I was about two thirds of the way into this book when I realized that this was going to be a series of books (Yes, I know, it says that on the back cover.). I don't dislike book series, however the ending of this first book felt abrupt. While it left the reader “hanging”, I felt it left too many unresolved questions and issues. I would have liked to have seen a few more chapters.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and loved Anya. Yeah for strong (but not militant) female characters! I will be passing this one on to my 15 year old daughter. I look foreword to discussing it with her, I think it will provide a basis for some really interesting fuel for conversation!

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