Book Review of All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Posted November 8, 2013 by Kara in book review, Lyn / 14 Comments

Book Review of All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle ZevinAll These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Series: Birthright #1
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on September 6th, 2011
Genres: dystopia, young adult
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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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.

Can I admit that this books’s cover drew me in?  Actually, I spied the cover for the second book at a used book store and looked for a copy of the first in the series everywhere before I finally gave up and purchased it for the Kindle.

So, in a way, I got what I deserved.
All These Things I’ve Done is a mixed bag.  On one had, I loved the story plot and the romance involved in this series. I don’t read a lot of mafia stories, but I do love the concept of organized crime.  However, the book tried to do so much, and the logic never really came through for me, and the main character was highly disappointing.
Things I Liked
I do love mafia fiction.  I tend to enjoy the focus of family in organized crime, and the idea of illegal empires really draws me in.  Anya constantly focuses on the wisdom from her daddy, which touched my heart.  I tend to do the same thing for my own papa (“Papa use to say….”) and I can relate to her fixation on the male parent in her life.
The romance was very believable and engaging.  I was really worried that this would turn out to be a “girl meets boy by page 5 and the rest is just details.”  Anya did meet her love interest early on in the story, and it was the stereotypical “new, mysterious guy,” but the author did not let the romance wreck her story. Kudos, Zevin.
Family-style loyalty was a strong influence in the book.  Love is great and all, but there are other people in a teen’s life that deserves affection and attention. Anya’s dedication to the tangled web of family obligations gave the story a much-needed edge.
Things I Did Not Like
The narration style.  The story was written in first person while attempting to break down the forth wall with the readers.  I do not need the main character to get all chummy with me.  It just rubbed me the wrong way.
Creepy attempted rapists get rewarded. That flat out pissed me off.
Everything was “poor Anya.” Spare me the pity – my eyes were tired from the constant rolling.
The book tried to do too many things, and it ended up as a muddled mess.  The storyline was constantly drifting and the focus of the story kept alternating from one chapter to the next.  I like that the author wanted an authentic, realistic plot, but the overall result felt very forced and sloppy.
Why in the world is chocolate illegal? I understand why the United States wanted to ban alcohol, but chocolate? Was it the sugar? The caffeine? The flavor? The narrator never gave a clear picture on the evils of chocolate.
Slut shaming – no no no.  Be Catholic all you want, but it doesn’t make you better than the “slutty girls.”
Finally, I was overall unimpressed on the inconsistencies of the story telling.  The plot twists were very transparent, and Anya, as a character, was downright bland and sluggish to evolve.  During one part of the book, she comes across a situation in which she describes that she went insane, but the event didn’t even seem to phase her in the long run.  That annoyed me to no end and I chopped off a star over that event alone.
My final thoughts: This wasn’t a terrible book, and ended up as a highly entertaining read. Kara is making a case for the second book, and I might end up reading it eventually.  This isn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t one of my top picks for the year.
Gif Reaction (Totally stolen from Debby at Snuggly Oranges)
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14 responses to “Book Review of All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

  1. Wow, I LOVED this book, in fact the whole series! I love how they use chocolate to show even how silly the alcohol ban was, or that banning things just makes an opening for a mafia organization. Sorry you didn’t like it.

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed this one more than I did. I couldn’t get past the attempted rape thing, and then the fact that the almost rapist started dating someone close to the MC… and the MC was okay with that?! Right.

    I love mafia fiction too, and it’s something that I want to see more of. Holly Black did it better with the Curse Workers though ;D

  3. I haven’t heard of this one before but a good romance will always do for me! I understnad what you mean by MC’s that try to make you sympathise and stuff like that. Not always the best way to narrate a novel.

    Lovely review, Lyn! <33

  4. Hmph! I don’t agree with you at all, Lynn. Banning alcohol makes as much sense as(by which I mean none at all) banning chocolate. 🙂 How did the world even function in the Prohibition days? That’s right, there were wars years later because the effects of alcohol deprivation turned latent and genetic, showing up in the descendants and causing people to become rotten and stuff. Or maybe I’m just really bad at US history.

    • Hmmmm. That’s an interesting thesis. Individual states have been declaring the production and sale of alcohol illegal since our country was founded, but Prohibition in America didn’t even last fifteen years; that isn’t enough time for a species to change on a genetic level, especially with all the immigrants coming in from places that DID allow people to consume alcohol and all the illegal distribution of spirits that went on–alcohol was as ubiquitous in the 1920’s as marijuana was in the 1980’s.

      World War II, which started around five years after Prohibition ended, wasn’t caused by the US; we stepped in to help our allies. Similarly, the war in Vietname, which started ten years after the end of WWII, was originally a communism vs. colonialism fight, and we came in to help France. It was a terrible idea, and we were, indeed, bogged down, but I don’t think your logic is sound re: cause and effect here.

      Also, when people drink, they frequently become violent and commit crimes. A big part of the temperance movement here was about women being abused by alcoholic husbands–we had fewer legal rights back then, and a large percentage of the population considered women the personal property of their husbands. That…I mean, what is the comparison to chocolate?

  5. I’d heard about the Slut shaming and the handling of the rape issue a while back, and decided to give this one a pass. I’m interested in seeing what you think about book two, though–sometimes things get much, much better after the first one.

  6. I adore this book (and its sequel and I have the third book to come at my library hopefully soon!) so I’m bummed that it didn’t completely work for you. My memory may be faulty but I thought Anya was very pissed off of at the rapist and her friend dating?

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