Friday, September 30, 2011
All These Things I've Done
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011
YA; Speculative Fiction
Source: Received a review copy through Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.
I'm going to break this down into five elements to help me better process my thoughts and to hopefully convince you to read this because I really enjoyed it.
Setting: The setting is established on the back cover. The year is 2083, chocolate and caffeine are illegal, paper books are scarce, and New York City is rife with poverty and crime (although it kind of is now, right?) Anyway it didn't feel very futuristic except for specific references to the illegality of chocolate and the rareness of books. Life goes on much as it does today. However it does provide an intriguing entry point; I know that I wanted to know about life without much chocolate as a diehard chocoholic!
Plot: The fact that chocolate is illegal is an important plot point though because main character Anya Balanchine is the daughter of a now slain mob boss and her family's money comes from chocolate. The majority of the book revolves around Anya trying to take care of her brother and sister as they are orphans and their grandmother is near death; as a 16-year old Anya cannot officially be the guardian and taking caring of her family is her number-one priority. The other main plot threads are the Balanchine crime family as well as Anya's budding romance, which will be discussed later.
Characters: Anya is the make-or-break it element of this book. She's the narrator, you're in her head so if you hate her, then you will not like this book. However I warmed to her easily. A. she's pro-family and I enjoyed her struggles against her selfishness to do what would protect her family (not all YA-heroines can handle that) B. She's pretty lippy, which is just funny. I enjoyed her voice a lot. Then there are the other characters: Anya's family, her best friend Scarlet, the boyfriend, and various authority figures. In general, I felt they were distinct personalities with specific reasons for being in the narrative.
Writing: The writing connects with the characters as it is told in Anya's voice. I felt this was a little shaky (although as this was an uncorrected proof, perhaps this will be edited later?) because the story was mostly told by Anya to the reader as flashback with her making little interjections for foreshadowing. The other element relating to this is how Anya inserts her father's words of wisdom, which some people may not like but I loved.
And lastly, Romance: I was not sure I was going to be sold on this as their romance is cliched: the mob boss's daughter and the assistant D.A.'s son as star-crossed lovers fighting societal and parental expectations-blech. However there was more depth and more heat that got me rooting for them. The 4.5 rating was basically clinched due to the last page with them on it.
One last note is how the back cover states "a groundbreaking new series," which sounds hyperbolic to me; not sure what's in this book lives up to that statement. However I am eager for the next book to see what Anya's going to do next!
Overall: Highly recommended! Do you have any questions that I didn't answer or that I was vague about? I would love to answer and hopefully encourage you to give the book a try for yourself!