Tuesday, September 17, 2013

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: All These Things I've Done
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Farr, Straus, and Girous (September 6, 2011)
Source: Own

From Goodreads:

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.

The title, All These Things I've Done (by Gabrielle Zevin), is very intriguing. It sets the tone for the story before the reader even moves past the cover. Speaking of the cover, the beautiful, yet eerie art cements the haunting tone. The cover featured above is from the paperback and is the cover that fits in with the rest of the series. Although on the surface it's kind of a basic YA cover (insert teenage face looking miserable), I also think it does a great job setting the mood. We have Anya looking out over NYC, is if from the balcony of her apartment, but the expression, the colors, and the contrast between the sharpness of her face and blurred city really is quite striking. 

Don't get me wrong. I loved the original cover too. I just think they are both accomplishing different things. 

Okay, onto the story! The world Zevin created is very Prohibition-esque (and quite on purpose). It was fascinating to read about this type of world and have it set in the future. Now, I have to admit, I couldn't quite believe in the idea that chocolate would ever become illegal, if only because I believe that the amount of chocolate lovers in this country would have outweighed those against it and would have created massive riots at any proposed legal ban (the same is probably true for coffee, but since I don't care for coffee, that one didn't bother me much). That said, the social commentary on how and why different products are banned was interesting and thought provoking.

Zevin's style of writing is interesting and I'm not 100% sure how I feel about it. I absolutely loved the chapter titles. They gave me a glimpse of Anya's personality as I scanned the Table of Contents and accomplished the task of intriguing me to read on. However, there are times when the narrator, Anya, breaks the fourth wall to talk directly to the reader. It is clear that this narrator is not the Anya as we see her in the story, but an Anya who has already experienced the entire story and is retelling it. She occasionally makes comments to the reader that let us know something is not as bad as it seems (or is, in fact, even worse)...but we'll find that out later. These intrusions are minor and don't really interrupt the story, but those are the things I'm not sure how much I like. I usually only enjoy those types of inserts in a very comical or ridiculous story, where the narration adds to the humor. Since this story can definitely not be defined as comical, the insertions were mildly irritating, though that is purely personal preference.

The story itself was well done. By the end of it, there is a long list of key characters who all appeared fully realized and complex. I particularly enjoyed the cast of family members, including Leo and Natty. Zevin covered some big stuff in this book (i.e., Leo) and was able to do so without merely paying tribute, but also without taking the focus away from the larger story. As an aspiring writer, I really appreciated the way she was able to accomplish that challenging task. 

Overall, All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin is an interesting read. If you are intrigued by the cover and/or blurb, definitely pick it up. If not, it might not be to your taste. 

Final thoughts: Borrow