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Review: All These Things I’ve Done

All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin was released in the U.S. on September 6, 2011 in hardcover, audio and eBook formats. It is currently available to order online in all formats at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Books for Young Readers), a division of Macmillan, the print edition is 368 pages.

All These Things I’ve Done is the first book in the Birthright series.

Goodreads description:

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.

My brother Leo was supposed to take my father’s place as head of the family if anything happened to Daddy. He was the oldest after all and I was just a girl.

But Leo was injured in an accident and he just wasn’t the same as he used to be. An accident that was really an attempt on Daddy’s life. An accident which not only took away the Leo I knew, but also took my mother from me. That was a long time ago. Back when Daddy was still alive.

Someone got the job done, eventually. Natty and I saw them when they came for Daddy. We were right there, hiding beneath his desk. Natty still has nightmares. I do, too.

It’s up to me to to be in charge of our family now. Nana is still our official guardian, but she isn’t well. So I have to look after Leo and Natty. I am responsible for us all. I just have to stay away from trouble.

But trouble seems to want to find me. First Gable Arsley, my newly ex-boyfriend, gets poisoned by the chocolate my family sells. The illegal chocolate. Did I mention that in 2083 chocolate is illegal?

Then of course I have to fall for Win Delacroix, the son of the new Assistant District Attorney. If that isn’t asking for trouble, I don’t know what is.

So now, instead of keeping quiet and taking care of my family, I’m being questioned for Gable’s poisoning. And because of my involvement with Win, I’m in the spotlight. I may only be in high school, but already I feel like I need forgiveness for all these things I’ve done.

***

All These Things I’ve Done takes readers to a future in which water is scarce, paper is practically non-existent and coffee and chocolate are illegal, which has given rise to organized crime.

And in New York City in 2083, the Balanchine family is one of the most powerful crime families, even without Leo Balanchine at the helm. Because the chocolate they manufacture is some of the best available and people don’t care whether it’s illegal or not. They just want it.

The story centers around Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the deceased head of the business, Leo Balanchine. While she has no plans to enter the family business, she can’t escape her family name and all that comes with it.

She may not know exactly what she wants to do, but for now she’s happy that her Nana Galina is still alive and glad to be rid of her boyfriend Gable as she starts her Junior year at Holy Trinity.

But when Gable gets poisoned by her family’s chocolate, they are quick to point fingers at her. And if she can’t clear her name and get herself out of trouble, she’s at risk of losing everything and everyone she cares about.

All These Things I’ve Done is a story about one girl’s struggle to keep her family together against tremendous odds. At just sixteen Anya is trying to juggle her responsibilities to her brother and sister and to her extended family, with her own interests, which includes trying not to fall victim to Win Delacroix’s charms. A battle she is most definitely losing.

Author Gabrielle Zevin has written an incredibly engaging, heartwarming and heartbreaking story. The world she has laid the foundation for in this first book in the series is intriguing – a crime-ridden city, officials on the take, natural resources scarce and caffeine illegal. Quite the bleak and not so distant future.

The main character, Anya Balanchine is strong, but not too tough, smart in the ways of the world, if not as book smart as her sister and intensely loyal to and protective of her family. She is likable and sympathetic, if not immediately lovable. She is not quick to forgive and forget, but her life experiences have made her that way.

The story doesn’t end on what would typically be considered a cliffhanger, but there are quite a few loose ends as far as Anya, Win and Leo Jr. are concerned, and the door is left wide open for any number of possibilities.

All These Things I’ve Done is an exciting start to this new series with a mystery that needs to be solved, a forbidden love story and ultimately one where one girl must decide whether or not to claim her birthright.

Reviewer gives this book…

About the audiobook:

Audiobook: Unabridged Compact Discs

Length: 8 Discs/Approximately 10 hours

Read by: Ilyana Kadushin

Ilyana Kadushin was the perfect reader for Anya Balanchine. The tone of her voice was a close match to how I might have imagined Anya’s to be. She did a wonderful job with the pacing, making it easy for this first-time audiobook reviewer to follow along and become engaged with the story.

She also did a great job for many of the other characters in this book, especially Nana Galina, changing her voice just enough to enable me to easily distinguish one character from another.

While I didn’t enjoy the voice she used for Gable, he had the least amount of dialogue in this story, so I didn’t find that it detracted from the overall experience.

I would definitely listen to another audiobook by this narrator and may just continue listening to this series if Ilyana Kadushin is the narrator.

On a personal note:

I really loved getting to know Anya Balanchine. She was the very best part of this story. She was an incredibly sympathetic character. And as tough a front as she put up, and as strong as she wanted to be, she just couldn’t keep that wall up. And that was because of Win. Who I absolutely love.

Win brought out the very best in Anya, even though she fought against him. He was kind and patient and almost, but not quite, too perfect to be true. He is the ideal book boyfriend.

I really feel like I got to know Anya and her family in this story. The author did an amazing job in developing her character and her family’s history. And I can’t wait to see just what decisions Anya will make about her future with the family business, her brother, the very intriguing Yuji Ono and of course Win Delacroix.

Although this story is set in the future, it almost feels like it’s one set in the past, back when organized crime took hold during Prohibition. While the law tries to maintain control, it’s really the criminal enterprises that hold the power, especially as so many officials are being bribed. And I can’t wait to see just what Win’s father, the Assistant District Attorney, plans to do if he wins the election and becomes the new DA.

In the next book, I would love to learn more about this world that the author has introduced in this first book in the series and to hear why certain things were made illegal versus others.

Anya has some really tough choices to make, and from what I’ve learned so far about her, she might not make the right ones. But I am excited to see just what she’ll do next.

As this was my first audiobook for review, I have to talk just a little bit about that experience.

I was totally afraid that I wouldn’t enjoy listening to an audiobook. I’d only listened to one before. But I really enjoyed Ilyana Kadushin’s reading of this story. I found it easy to follow along and her voice had just the right pitch so that I didn’t find it in the least bit annoying.

The audiobook was the perfect companion when I was walking around. I thought my visual surroundings would distract me from what I was listening to, but in the case of this narrator, I was easily able to stay focused. I also found it great to listen to at night when I just didn’t feel like reading, although the narrator did have a soothing voice so I may have drifted off once or twice.

While the audiobook will never replace the printed page for me – I still enjoy discovering the story on my own – I will definitely now be listening to audiobooks in addition to reading them.

***

To get a look at the first 30 pages from the publisher’s website, CLICK HERE.

Book trailer for All These Things I’ve Done:


This review is based on an audiobook I received from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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