aka YA Literature

Saturday, September 24, 2011

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

I haven't posted in forever. (1) I was in Poland most of the summer. (2) This has been the craziest busy year yet. (3) I haven't really read anything that inspires me to post anything.

But . . .

I just finished Gabrielle Zevin's All These Things I've Done and it has inspired me to do a post. Anya Balanchine is living in New York City in 2083. This is a NYC that is different from the NYC we know today, but it is also extremely familiar and recognizable. The streets and the major places are all there, but water and other natural resources (like energy and paper) are scarce. Places like Central Park and The Met are still around, but the park is completely denuded and ugly, and The Met is a ramshackle building converted into a nightclub. People deal with rolling blackouts and rampant corruption. Also, chocolate is illegal; the caffeine is a drug.

Anya's family is a leader in the black market chocolate business. Her mother and father are both dead before the story begins due to their mob involvement, so Anya (a junior in high school) tries to keep a low profile. Her older brother Leo is mentally child-like due to the car crash that killed their mother, so Anya is pretty much in charge of taking care of herself, Leo, and their younger sister Nattie. In the course of the story, Anya finds it harder and harder to keep a low profile and out of the family business as her cousin recruits Leo to work at the family headquarters and Anya falls for the new boy at school, Win, who is the son of the assistant DA (who has aspirations to run for DA and "clean up" the city).

If the story were set in present-day NYC, it would still be a good story, but the future setting that is different but not completely "futuristic" to the present really makes the story for me. The idea of chocolate as the forbidden substance is intriguing. I love all the references to places in New York that have been repurposed or changed because of the scarcity issues (wait til you read about the Statue of Liberty!). I really liked all the subtle ways Zevin referenced the ways that people had to deal with scarcity. For example, when Anya has a terrible day at school, she uses her last quarter to splash water on her face. People have to carry change around to get water. The setting was just really well-done and turned a good star-crossed lover story into something much more intriguing. Plus, it's not just a romance story. Anya is a very tough and complex girl who has a lot to deal with and issues way beyond what most teenagers would or should ever have to face. Not to mention she never knows just who she can trust.

Be sure to take the jacket off the book so you can see how the cover looks like a bar of Ballantine Special Dark chocolate!