All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011
young adult, first in a trilogy
I read this months ago...I really liked it. You can read on as I try to make sense of my jumbled notes, or you can trust me that it is great, skip the review and just read the book!
First, I really like this title, and the way it plays into the story.
Set in the future, where chocolate is illegal and water is scarce, this never really feels like a dystopian novel, which was a plus for me. (Although that has been a negative for other readers.) There were simply little details and moments throughout the book that made me remember it was set in the future.
Anya Balanchine's father is dead, but when he was alive, he was a notorious crime boss, something that deeply affected the family. Her mother was killed in a car accident (meant to take out her father) and her older brother suffered a brain injury as a result of the same accident. Anya's got a lot of responsibility, but still, things are going okay until her jerk of an ex-boyfriend almost dies from eating chocolate manufactured by Anya's family. To further complicate the situation, while a suspect in the poisoning, Anya is also falling in love with the assistant DA's son.
I love the following conversation between Anya and her friend:
"isn't that OMG?"and then later when her Nana explains:
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Um, it stands for something. Dad said it used to mean, maybe, 'amazing'? Or something like that? He wasn't sure. Ask your nana, okay?" (p. 15, 16)
"Oh my God," Nana said. "Life used to move much more quickly when I was a girl. We needed to abbreviate just to keep up." (p.227)What Zevin does best here is create really well-developed characters, especially Anya. I worried about her! She has so much responsibility, and I'm just not sure who she can trust - her family, the Japanese chocolatier...I hope she chooses wisely and I'm really excited to see how things play out in the rest of the trilogy.
Here's what didn't work (or felt out of place): there's an aside on page 209 where Anya speaks directly to the reader. It's the first time this happens and it just seems random. Then, later, Anya speaks directly to the reader again, ending with, "Unlike some, I pride myself on being a very reliable narrator." (p. 266). This left me going, "What? Did I miss an indication that she's not a reliable narrator?" Up to this point, I'd been believing her...and so I started to wonder if we'd find out some really different things in the next book.
The things I liked definitely outweighed the things I didn't, and I can't wait for the next book!
Reviewed from library copy