My original review: http://pineforapples.blogspot.com/2011/12/all-these-things-ive-done.html
Anya is a headstrong girl who is mature for her age, and very practical.
Though it made her seem weak willed, or like a push over at times, her ability to keep valuable information to herself has saved her many times, and I admit, if I were in her position I would have died just for getting in trouble with my words.
At times you want just her to talk back to the aggressor, batter them down with witty words and comebacks and spill secrets of their torrid affairs, but then you find out the trouble she circumvented just by choosing her words carefully.
Which makes her very unique in the YA world of course, what with all the back-talking, trigger-happy people who tend to rant speak on impulse and make the situation worse.
She is a girl who can make mature decisions, sometimes risking her pride, without compromising her family's safety, notwithstanding certain relationships of course.
She is obviously the authority in her family, with her brother impaired by an accident, a 12 year old sister and her grandmother strapped to machines. She relies a lot on what she learned from her father to take care of them, flying under the radar- because her father was the previous crime boss of the Balachine crime family and people would gladly blame them for things they did not do.
But then trouble always has a way of finding Anya. One of the perks of reading crime family books is that you can rely on having a backstabber in the family.
Which of course, ultimately causes much trouble for Anya and her immediate family.
She goes through much, and having her ex-boyfriend poisoned by the chocolate manufactured by her family that she gave him does not exactly help her "fly-under-the-radar" status. Suffering through arrogant adults, emotional issues in her personal and family life, and being in a school where teachers on your side are an 11:1 (you can guess the number that likes her), Anya won't fail to keep things up.
This book ends with many questions as to what will happen next, and with such a charged ending like that, no doubt many will be waiting and haranguing their bookstore for the next.
The idea of this dystopia is pretty interesting. Here we don't see much of political/government interest in our characters, but with a focus on just the crime force and the police. Which is a fresh breath of air compared to the other dystopian novels where the government always has something to do with the plot.
Also, the idea that caffeine is prohibited, although only in that country and not Europe and Russia as it seems, paper is scarce and you need a permit to use them, water is costly, disease are rampant- this is actually quite believable. (except for the caffeine part. My lovely choco+coffee= cafe mocha is too dear to me.) It would suggest that the environment is declining at a higher rate, therefore making things seem more drastic.
However, Anya's practical side becomes her demise. There are several moments when it was rather dull and the most you could do was just skim through those chapters until something interesting comes up.
It makes her very uptight, or to for want of a better word, boring. Thank goodness it does not span the entire book or you see hordes of snoring people.
Yes, she is somewhat dull, but that is the downside of having a practical character. To look at it more optimistically at least, we'll have no bouts of screaming at the silly actions of fictional characters.
Now I shall wrangle my piece on the cover.
First off, what is this book essentially about? A crime family, or even more interestingly, a Russian chocolate mafiya family. With a the predecessor's daughter as our protag. It involves intrigue! Mystery! Family shenanigans! Star-crossed lovers! Assassins!
And then you look at the cover. How is that supposed to market to the appropriate audience? If say a person wanted to read about a CHOCOLATE mafia family with a whole bunch of troubles you can stuff inside would a book with a chocolate heart seem appealing? Heck, it looks like something that would appeal more to the contemporary crowd.
Sure sure, there are some words on the bottom, but when you enter a bookstore you would need some pretty strong bionic eyesight or you wouldn't be able to see those small faint gray words.
The ideal cover would be... you know those family portraits? Where everyone is wearing all formal clothes some parlour with the head of the family in the middle, and the rest of the people positioned by rank, whatnot. But with a focus on Anya. Cliched, but you gotta admit it has glamour!
Gabrielle Zevin brings something new into the world of young adult Dystopia, and though this didn't the right spots with me all the time, I'll still recommend this to people who are looking for a new voice in dystopian fiction and enjoy mystery, romance, some strong crime family business, adventure and of course, chocolate.