September 12, 2011

A near-future story that’s both bitter and sweet

By Gabrielle Zevin
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Having tackled amnesia and the afterlife in previous novels, Gabrielle Zevin turns to the future in All These Things I’ve Done. Unlike many of the proliferating dystopias that have taken over young adult literature, this glimpse at the year 2083 is funny and romantic as 16-year-old Anya Balanchine looks back at one wild year in the heart of New York City.

In a Prohibition-like age in which speakeasies dole out illegal chocolate and caffeinated beverages, Anya is just trying to keep her family out of trouble until she turns 18. With her notorious chocolate crime boss father and former CSI mother dead from “mafiya” hits, an older brother with mental challenges from an unsuccessful hit, an overlooked genius little sister and a grandmother kept alive as guardian with a host of machines, Anya has become the real head of the household.

Her life becomes even more complicated when her ex-boyfriend is poisoned by bars of her family’s black-market chocolate—and she’s the prime suspect. To make matters worse, her brother has gotten involved in the family business, and Anya can’t resist new student Win Delacroix, whose father is running for District Attorney. With her head and her heart constantly at odds, feisty Anya must decide what’s right for her in the face of unusual family and relationship dynamics.

Anya’s predicaments are reason enough to like this witty story, but her amusing narration, complete with notes to the reader, adds to the enjoyment. Although she doesn’t understand the significance of such sites as “Little Egypt,” a club that used to be a museum with a grand collection of Egyptian art, or such dated expressions as “OMG” from the era of her grandmother (born in 1995), readers will appreciate the humor. Just like chocolate, the story’s dark bitterness is sweetened by Anya to form a delicious treat.

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