Book Review: All These Things I've Done
By: Gabrielle Zevin
Narrated By: Ilyana Kadushin
Published By: Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: September 2011
Audio Length: 10 hours, 11 minutes
Audience: Young Adult - Dystopian
On the Writing & Story:
I was so excited when I picked this book at the library a few weeks ago. I couldn't wait to dive into it. I'm not a huge fan of dystopians, but I was attracted to this one because the premise was so unique. The year is 2083 and life as we know it has been drastically altered. Society has almost reverted back to the 1920's when prohibition and organized crime reigned.
Anya Balanchine, the main character, is the daughter of an infamous crime boss who ruled the Balanchine family and its chocolate empire. Yes, in 2083, chocolate is an illegal substance. I'm not a big chocolate fan, but I have many friends who wouldn't survive in a world in which chocolate was only available on the black market. However, I don't think I'd be too happy in this world since caffeine is also illegal. The government believes that things like chocolate and caffeine caused society to crumble. Speakeasies spring up throughout the United States and crime families climb up the ladder of power by peddling forbidden goods. This idea is so interesting and made of awesome.
However, the book just didn't live up to my expectations. My biggest problem was that some of the elements within the plot didn't do a lot to move the story forward. I found myself bored throughout several sections in the middle of the book. My mind would find some daydream to latch onto and then I'd come back into the story and be totally lost. In spite of the intriguing concept, I found Anya's life to be somewhat mundane. She is a normal girl whose learning to be a woman and falling in love in the midst of this new society, but her life is school, her family, and her boyfriend. Yes, she has to deal with some issues due to her family's shading dealings that sets her apart from other YA characters, but don't we all have family issues from time to time? Many of the other elements she deals with such as her ailing grandmother and being in charge of her family are things that real teens often have to learn to handle. Furthermore, I was somewhat disappointed that so much of the book revolved around Anya and her family while I felt like the world building that I have come to expect with dystopians was seriously lacking.
In spite of my lackluster reaction to this one, I did find the elements concerning the crime family elements to be fascinating ones. I kept having to remind myself that this book was set in the future. The plot held true with what I know about organized crime in American history. In addition, I am a sucker for Romeo and Juliet plotlines. Anya's relationship with Win certainly delivers on that front. I'm curious to see what will become of them in the future. Furthermore, the structure of the novel was interesting. I loved that each chapter began with a quick run down of the things that Anya had done before the chapter went into detail about the events. I also liked that the story is written as if the reader is sitting down with Anya as she tells you the story of her life.
Anya is one of the elements that makes this book stand out in my mind. I admire her strength and loyalty. No matter how difficult things got for her, she still managed to find solutions and do what was best for those she loved. You have to admire her conviction. However, this was not an easy read - it's not happy and things don't always go the way you want. That may be part of my problem with deciding if I truly liked this one or not; I have to be in a certain mood to appreciate the really dark stuff.
I would still recommend this book to those who love crime dramas and romance. At its core, All These Things I've Done is a coming of age story. It has a lot of merits and is well written, but it just wasn't the read for me at the time. I really wanted to like this book more than I did.
On the Audio:
When I realized that Ilyana Kadushin was the narrator of this one I wasn't sure what to expect. Kadushin narrated the Twilight Saga audiobooks and while they were well done and enjoyable there were certain elements about her narration that bothered me. For example, in the Saga audiobooks she pronounces Bella as Bell-uh - that drove me crazy. In this audiobook, she started the book out pronouncing Win's last name one way and by the middle she had changed the way she pronounced it. I know this is a random thing to be annoyed by, but when that last name comes up numerous times in the text it is hard to ignore. Overall, I don't mind Kadushin's voice or the way she chooses to narrate, but I have to admit the name thing is quickly becoming a pet peeve of mine.
One Last Gripe: I didn't like that Win's dad didn't seem to care about his son's happiness.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The setting in this one is phenomenal. The way that Zevin describes New York City was one of my favorite elements of this book. I love the vision that she sews for the reader.
First Sentence: The night before junior year - I was sixteen, barely - Gable Arsley said he wanted to sleep with me.
Favorite Character: Anya
Least Favorite Character: Gable
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.