All These Things I’ve Done
By: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Futuristic YA crime thriller
First published in 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 accidentally 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.
– Description from Amazon.com
I had a lot of fun reading All These Things I’ve Done, and I actually finished it in a day! It just completely caught me along for the ride. The book had its faults, but they didn’t dilute my enjoyment, and it’s definitely a quick read. Yes, the story is set in a future where chocolate is illegal, and that is a bit silly. But I found out I didn’t care! I just went with it.
One thing I have to say right off the bat, though: this book is not a dystopian novel. It is set in a future world where crime is rife, but the focus isn’t on the worldbuilding. Instead the book is very strictly focused on Anya’s family and school life, and on Anya trying to balance her responsibilities between the two. I think if someone picked this up expecting a dystopian novel, they would be disappointed. This is more of a crime thriller that happens to be set in the future.
Anya herself was the main reason I liked the book. She is someone who has had to grow up fast in order to take care of her siblings. Because of that, she has her issues – she is pretty cold and guarded, but I liked that about her. I know she will rub some people the wrong way, but I like the cold fish, tough cookie types. Anya hasn’t had a lot of time to focus on herself what with taking care of her siblings, and she has some trust issues, which is understandable when you take into account that both of her parents were murdered. I also found it interesting that she had embraced her mother’s Catholic faith, when the rest of her family wasn’t that religious. I’m not religious at all, but I found her being Catholic an interesting character trait.
Apart from the protagonist, I liked the main theme of the book. In a way they reminded me of Holly Black’s White Cat. There’s the teenager who has to deal with a history of crime in the family as well as family members who are still in the business, all the while juggling school life. Of these two, I prefer White Cat, because it is a bit more polished, but I did enjoy All These Things I’ve Done, as well.
Let’s move on to the weaknesses of the book. In the middle the story slowed down a bit when too much time was spent on Anya’s relationship with Win, the new boy in school. I wanted the focus to stay on her family (both the immediate one and the extended mafia one) instead of her love life. The beginning and the end of the book were a lot more interesting. But since I read the book so fast, the middle part went by quickly enough, and didn’t bother me as much as it could have.
There were also some weird glitches that could have been ironed out – for example, there is a lot of discussion of the school play, a production of Macbeth, but it never goes anywhere. We see Anya and her friend practice for it, but then the play is dismissed in a few sentences. It had no bearing on the plot and could have been left out entirely.
Despite some weaknesses, the story caught me enough to make me read through it in one day, and the protagonist was great. The middle of the book could be restructured a bit to maintain the mafia angle stronger all the way through. Everything said, I will definitely be reading the sequel.
I give All These Things I’ve Done 4 out of 5 stars.