Title: All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1)
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Macmillan)
Acquired Via: My Local Library
Release Date: September 6, 2011
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.
My coming across Gabrielle Zevin's Birthright series is a bit of a happy accident. I was trolling around the blogosphere (as I am wont to do), and I happened upon an excerpt of All These Things I've Done. (You can find that excerpt HERE.) I have never had the slightest interest in this book for whatever reason (I don't understand my own taste - I admit it), but I was drawn to the excerpt. I don't know if it's a glitch on my work computer or with Macmillan's website, but a lot of the excerpt is blacked out. I am very nosy by nature, and the blacked out text merely fed my curiosity. I had to find some way to read it, and I did. Surprisingly, I liked what I read very much. I ordered the audiobook from my library and was going to keep it sitting in my car until I finished what I had been reading. However, the other book had to wait because I was already too far invested in All These Things I've Done and Anya, the main character.
I have to tell you, that this book (and series) has been completely character-driven. It's not to say that the world-building isn't adequate and believable - it is - but Anya Balanchine dominates ever aspect of All These Things I've Done. She is narrating incidents that happened to her from what is believed to be far into her own future based on her tone and tense. It is shown in the first chapter that she is burdened with a crappy boyfriend, a dying grandmother, a developmentally-challenged brother, and a younger sister, all in addition to being a mafia crime boss' orphan who is trying really hard to be a good Catholic girl. Anya - "Annie" is faced with the difficulty of determining what is right and what is good, all while trying to protect and take care of her family.
It's hard to look down on Annie's family history (being in the mafia) because their illegal activity is things (caffeine and chocolate) that are accepted and embraced at this moment in history. The Balanchine family specializes in chocolate, and it has been illegal in the United States for quite some time. When the illegality of something that is enjoyed by the current majority is the subject at hand, it begs to question why other things are made illegal. Prohibition was brought up a bit in the novel because alcohol consumption is legal and much less age-restricted in All These Things I've Done's future world. Why is alcohol okay and not caffeine or chocolate?
As for the narrator (since this was an audiobook that I listened to after all), I thought Ilyana Kadushin did a fantastic job bringing the story to life. I think she navigated the voices of each character seamlessly and made each of them distinct. She made Anya come across very much as a teenaged girl who had a lot of problems. I will probably search out Kadushin's other narrated works when I'm looking for random audiobooks.
Overall, All These Things I've Done was an addictive treat that was nearly impossible to walk away from. I did not expect to even like this series, but the trilogy just might be one of my favorite reads of the year. If you haven't read All These Things I've Done, it comes with my highest recommendation the next time you're looking for something to read.
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You are going to put words in my box?! *squeezes you* Now I shall stalk YOUR blog!