Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dystopian Pick: All These Things I've Done

All These Things I've Done
by Gabrielle Zevin
Farrar Straus Giroux
2011
354 pages

Blogger's Note: Author Gabrielle Zevin will be at the Austin Teen Book Festival along with 29 other ya authors on October 1 in Austin, Texas. The festival is FREE and held at Palmer Events Center. Ya'll come join us there! More information is available at Teen Book Festival.
follow the Twitter feed @AustinTBF@APLFF
Teens will report using cellphones and Flip video cameras. event hashtag: #ATBF11

watch the book trailer here

Fascinating, riveting, and brutally taut, this dynamic new ya dystopian thriller by Gabrielle Zevin is sure to be a teen hit!

The year is 2083 and governments have toppled. Crime is rampant, laws are in place but there are more criminals than law-abiding citizens, curfews are set up to protect the populace, chocolate is contraband, coffee and sodas are illegal, food and candles are rationed, parks and sidewalks are overgrown and filthy, and museums and libraries are forgotten artifacts.

Anya Balanchine is the middle daughter of a murdered crime boss. Her mother was killed years earlier in a hit gone wrong that was supposed to be on her father. Her older brother Leo took a bullet to the head in the same incident. Although he seems "normal," Leo now suffers seizures and has the abilities of a nine-year old. Anya's younger sister Natty is only nine. Nana, the matriarch, is bed-ridden and sometimes forgetful. This leaves Anya in charge of the entire family. That is a lot of pressure on a high school student--not to mention the fact that everyone knows her family's sordid crime past.

Anya's family makes and distributes chocolate. When chocolate was legal, it was a productive business. Now that it's contraband, the family fortune grows but it's an increasingly dangerous business. Gable, Anya's ex-boyfriend, ends up in the hospital, and police suspect that Anya poisoned the chocolate bars she gave to Gable. Anya is thown into Liberty--an island off the coast of New York City--punishment for young girls. Anya notices the feet of a giant statue that stand over her prison. She remembers Nana telling her that the statue was once of a lady and tourists could climb all the way up the statue using staircases inside. Now all that's left is rubble and the statue's feet. I found it ironic that the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island--icons for peace and freedom to Americans today--are now a prison in this novel that stifles all freedom and liberty of the citizens.

Anya spends time in solitary--treated worse that any animal and survives only due to her inner strength. She is freed by Charles Delacroix, the city's prosecuter and father of her "friend" Win. Delacroix is a sly politician and asks that Anya back off from her friendship with his son. He doesn't want his career tarnished by a relationship with a crime family. He makes himself crystal clear that he will cause trouble for Anya and her family if Anya doesn't break it off with his son.

The Balanchine chocolate empire is about to fall if Anya doesn't take some action. Her uncle offers Leo a job at the "Pool," the base of the family's operations. Anya worries that Leo will be asked to do something illegal and knowing that he is so trusting and naive, she fears he will face prison, or worse. Anya can't cause any trouble in the family because maybe her uncle will retaliate, sending the authorities to take her and Natty into Child Protective Services since Nana is too old to care for them and Leo is not mentally fit to be their guardian.

Anya is a stunning character--passionate, fierce, full of strength, analyzing all her options before acting, methodical, practical, quick-witted, and sharp of tongue, this girl's got real moxie! Sparks fly in the relationship between Anya and Win; readers will feel the heat.

This page-turner will leave readers wanting more of Anya and her crime family drama. This ya novel is a novel take on dystopian fiction--I appreciated this book as a crime noir, murder mystery--who killed Anya's father? Who is responsible for Nana's death? Who poisoned the chocolate?--dystopian fiction, and romance--just enough to keep girls interested and not enough to bore boys. There is bound to be a lot of teen interest in this book.

Highly, highly recommended grades 9-up. No language, almost "sex."

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

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