All These Things I've Done
by Gabrielle Zevin
Summary: 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.
This book was good, but at the same time it wasn't...which is kind of contrary, I know. I'll explain the "wasn't" part first before I get to the good stuff. But before I get to that, just to be clear, this is more just an explanation of why the book didn't work for me - I've seen plenty of 5 star reviews from people who adored the book.
I had high expectations for this book. For some reason it was one of those ones that I really wanted to read ever since I first heard of it and it sounded like it would be awesome (I think it was the Mafia-ish aspect and forbidden romance thing that appealed to me). It didn't live up to those expectations but at the same time, that may be why my opinion of the book was a little lower than it would've been had I read it expecting nothing.
With dystopians, they tend to fall into three catagories for me:
1. Ones where I read them and think, "Yeah, I can totally see how the world could end up that way. I do believe that could happen."
2. Ones where, while I think the world created is kind of far fetched, it's written so well that I believe it within the context of the story.
3. Ones that I am just totally not convinced by the world at all.
All These Things I've Done fell into the third catagory. I just found the world in the story ridiculous - something was just lacking there and so it made it harder to enjoy the book properly. The concept was interesting and I do give the author credit for the originality there, but the execution was just...could've been better.
Also, the whole "mafia" aspect - I was just not even remotely convinced by that at all...I just didn't buy her family as this big crime family because all that was really mentioned about them was illegally selling chocolate and coffee which is just - it's silly...when I think of the word mafia, I think real crime, major stuff but this was like a bunch of kittens treated like lions. It was like they made chocolate illegal so they could have the family be criminals without actually having the reader think of the family as criminals and thinking less of them for it.
Or maybe if the world building was done better and made me believe that illegally selling chocolate was this bad ass crime then that would've changed things but it was just lacking in believability.
I wasn't fond of the way the book was written - I won't get into all the reasons for that because this review is getting a bit long, but yeah; the writing was something I had high expectations for because I had read and adored quotes from the authors other books that made her seem like one of those writers whose writing would wow me and this didn't. It's wasn't bad, it just wasn't one of those books where the writing is one of the things I liked about it and I didn't actually have any emotional connection to the characters...I read the book, I enjoyed it, but it never made me laugh or cry or feel even an echo of what the characters were feeling, it didn't feel like there was much emotion on the pages and so it didn't really trigger any in me.
Now, onto the good stuff. Once I got over the fact that the book wasn't going to be what I expected it to be or exceed those expectations, and once I managed to suspend disbelief with the world in the book, I really enjoyed it. It was entertaining to read.
I liked the characters, especially the side characters (I wanted to hug Leo so much, he was lovely and the sibling relationships in the book made me smile). The main character, Anya, did have moments where she annoyed me but in general, she was okay (except for her religion - I had no problem with her being Catholic but I don't think her Catholicism was handled well in the book, it didn't seem genuine and it made her seem hypocritical...maybe it was intentionally meant as a character flaw, I don't know, I just didn't like it). The plot was enjoyable enough - not sure what I can really say about it without spoiling things so I'll leave it at that.
The romance was... okay. It wasn't swoon-worthy or anything but it was sweet and I liked Win, he was nice enough (with silly exceptions, like when he started calling Anya "lass" - that was just ridiculous, it wasn't cute...but that may be my Scottishness that disapproves of that because I associate it with Scottish/British stereotypes that bug me and I've only ever heard old men and women use that term).
I think the romance may have actually been one of the let downs as far as my expectations went - the summary made it sound like it would be this epic, Romeo and Juliet, forbidden type romance and it wasn't, any conflict with the romance was usually resolved like a chapter later (actually, most of the conflict in the book was handled like that but I can't talk about it without spoilers - I guess that was one of the negatives too).
I don't think I'm doing the book justice in this review, my attempts at getting to the positive stuff keeps turning negative. I just have difficulty explaining what I liked about it because to be honest, I don't know what I liked exactly. I know what I didn't like and I also know that I was entertained by it and did enjoy it, I just can't pin point exactly what it was I enjoyed about it - maybe with a book sometimes it really does just come down to the fact that it keeps you entertained and there doesn't need to be a reason beyond that.
I'd rate it maybe 3 stars out of 5. It was fun to read, just didn't live up to expectations and was kind of lacking in the world building and believability. From other reviews that I've seen, it seems to be mostly a love it or hate it kind of book with most of the reviews either being 4 or 5 stars or 1 or 2 stars so it might work out better for you than it did for me.