on September 6th 2011
Source: Borrowed from the library
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.
Engrossing and suspenseful, All These Things I've Done is an utterly unique, unputdownable read that blends both the familiar and the fantastic.
All These Thing I’ve Done is set in a futuristic New York City where caffeine and chocolate are banned. Anya’s father ran the Balanchine Crime Family and controlled the North American Chocolate trade before he was murdered. Now, Anya tries to distance herself from the family business in order to keep her family safe and especially because she is falling for the new DA’s son. But when Anya’s ex-boyfriend is poisoned with chocolate, Anya finds herself in the middle of a situation she didn’t start and wants nothing to do with.
I was a little thrown off at first because I had a hard time buying into a world where chocolate and caffeine were illegal. I just don’t buy it and talking about caffeine the way we talk about cocaine or meth seemed ridiculous. But once I forced myself to suspend my disbelief about the chocolate and caffeine, I found the rest of the world a very believable portrayal of our future. A water crisis has made pretty much everything hard to get a hold of (even for the rich daughter of a gangster like Anya).
I haven’t made up my mind about the writing yet. Often, I thought the prose was beautiful, but I also wondered many times why Anya was telling this story from the distant future. She constantly says things like “Back in those days…” and seems to be aware that she is writing a book. I couldn’t figure out who narrator-Anya was addressing and why she was telling her story, but for some reason, this book made me feel like I needed those questions answered.
One thing that really bothered me was Anya’s lack of change over the course of the book. She reacted to what was going on around her, but never rose to embrace and control the situation. I found it especially disappointing because of how often Anya was praised for being strong and grown up and responsible. Yes, she takes care of her family, because her parents are dead, but she has a sizable bank account and a very good lawyer on speed dial. The only reason the other characters don’t realize she is a whiner is because she keeps her mouth shut.
I found the end disappointing, because I felt like things were explained away. Anya wasn’t directly involved in the story lines that I found most interesting and most pressing (again, she just continues to react). She took care of what she had to, but mostly other people handled things for her. The mystery of the poisoned chocolate–a huge event at the beginning of the book and the reason I started reading in the first place–was explained away at the end and Anya did absolutely no work to solve the mystery. The last line is meant to be clever and I’m sure many readers will appreciate it, but to me it seemed cheesy and reinforced my opinion that Anya is over-dramatic.
Even with everything that left me unsettled or disappointed, I absolutely enjoyed the book. Anya got on my nerves, but I liked her. I liked the people in her life. I liked reading about her dead father. I liked learning about the Balanchine Crime Family. I loved Mouse, a character who made only a short appearance and the DA, who is the most likable antagonist I have ever encountered. No matter how much Anya frustrated me, I wanted to know what happened and what was going to happen. I kept reading and I enjoyed it. I’ll absolutely pick up the sequel when it comes out.
All These Thing I’ve Done counts toward the following challenges: 354 pages toward the 15,000 page challenge and Support Your Local Library. Track my progress on my 2012 Challenges Page.