“May God forgive me for this and all these things I’ve done.”
Looking at the books I’ve read the last year, dystopians have been the biggest bombs. Since everyone jumped on the futuristic, world-gone-to-pot bandwagon, there’s just not a lot of fresh, creative takes in the overly-saturated dystopian sub-genre.
As a result, when I bought Gabrielle Zevin’s All These Things I’ve Done when it was a Kindle Daily Deal, my expectations were incredibly low, but I figured at a buck or two, it was a low-risk proposition.
I was surprised that All These Things I’ve Done—despite wildly disparate reviews from readers whose opinions I trust—was a fresh and compelling entry amidst a slew of uninspiring dystopian trilogies.
It’s the 2083 and Anya Balanchine, daughter of a notorious—and murdered—crime boss, spends her days trying to hold her fractured family together in a future New York City where commodities including chocolate, caffeine, paper and cotton are illegal or hard-to-obtain. At 16 Anya’s tasked with caring for her ailing grandmother (who’s her legal guardian) and her siblings, including her older brother who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of her family’s involvement in organized crime.
“I wasn’t an expert on the chocolate ban as it had happened before I was born, but there were definite similarities. Daddy had always told me that there was nothing inherently evil about chocolate, that it had gotten caught up in a larger whirlwind involving food, drugs, health, and money. Our country had only chosen chocolate because the people in power needed to pick something, and chocolate was what they could live without. Daddy once said, ‘Every generation spins the wheel, Anya, and where it lands defines ‘the good.’ Funny thing is, they never know that they’re spinning it, and it hits something different every time.’”
She works hard to keep herself out of trouble so she can legally care for her younger sister once her grandmother passes away from an extended illness. She’s prickly and unbending, which means she has very specific expectations of herself, her role in her family and how others must behave. She’s judgmental and not necessarily “relatable,” though she has wit and humor that made me root for her.