Book #12 – A book set in the future – All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin (Birthright Series #1)
Succeeded by: Because It Is My Blood and In The Age Of Love and Chocolate
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian/Crime/Drama
In the year 2083, the world’s resources are drying up. Trees are almost dead, coffee and chocolate are illegal, it’s mandatory to have a permit to use paper so hardly anyone has read books, people take shorter showers and public transportation is used widely instead of personal cars. On the other hand, alcohol is legal at any age.
In this world, an orphaned sixteen-year old Anya Balanchine or ‘Annie’, the daughter of a deceased mafia leader, lives in New York City with her dying grandmother, her mentally incapable elder brother Leo and her younger sister Natty. Annie takes care of her family and is determined to keep out of the extended ‘family business’ that is involved in the production of chocolate.
One day, her ex-boyfriend is poisoned by the same Balanchine chocolate and Annie automatically becomes the suspect because she was the one who had given him the bars at his insistence. The story then follows Annie’s struggle to keep her family safe from the Balanchine family’s illegal activities.
This is my first foray into the world of dystopia, a genre I wasn’t too keen on reading, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, once I got past the first two chapters, it became quite interesting.
The book is more drama than crime, so it follows its own pace. It was interesting to see how Annie was trying to strike a fair balance between taking care of her family, managing school work, being with her friends and dating all at the same time. She was trying to be just a normal teenage girl but had the added responsibility of being both a mother and a father to her two siblings.
I liked Annie’s character sketch which is very well detailed. Her strength, courage and sacrificial nature are uncovered slowly as the story unfolds. Because of all the tragedy she has witnessed in her young sixteen years, Annie has been determined to shield her family from the danger that comes with being part of a mafia family. She is the take-charge, mother hen type of a controlling girl when it comes to her family and goes to any lengths to protect them from unwanted attention. She has the ability to think clearly even in the worst of situations and frequently remembers her father’s advice in times of distress and confusion to keep herself focused on the next move.
‘It’s not tragic,’ I assured her. ‘This is nothing. Tragedy is when someone ends up dead. Everything else is just a bump in the road.’ For the record, that was something Daddy used to say, but I’m pretty sure Shakespeare would have agreed too.
The author has written this book in the first narrative and it’s a different personal approach which is more about Anya’s daily struggles and resistance to her mobster family background rather than the actual crimes themselves. I liked the way all the relationships are portrayed between Annie and her immediate family, friends, current boyfriend and even God. And even though it is set in the dystopian future, there is little morbidity about the world at large. I will definitely consider reading the two succeeding books as the ending of the first one was left hanging.
Here are my favourite parts of the book:
1. ‘Life is messy,’ Dr Lau was fond of saying. ‘Deal with it. If you’re judging it, you’re not really seeing it.’
2. It was a strange thing to say, I suppose. But I knew what he meant without having to ask. All these teeth had once been in real, live people. They had talked and smiled and eaten and sung and cursed and prayed. They had brushed and flossed and died. In English class, we read poems about death, but here, right in front of me, was a poem about death, too. Only this poem was true. I had experienced death, and poems hadn’t helped me one bit. Poems didn’t matter. Evidence did.
3. I let myself feel good and sorry for myself, but only for a second. Daddy always said that the most useless of all human emotions was self-pity.
4. Always remember that you are powerful beyond measure. This power is your birthright.
5. ‘Let’s stay young forever. Young, stupid and pretty. Sounds like a plan, don’t you think?’
6. ‘Simply put, I’m tired of how awful things have gotten. Don’t tell me you’ve never asked yourself why things are the way they are. Why we devote all our resources to trying to compensate for our lack of resources. Can you honestly remember the last time anyone in our society came up with anything new? Other than a law, of course. And do you know what happens to a society of old things? It withers and dies. We are living in the Dark Ages, and half the people don’t even seem to know it. We can’t go on living like this forever!’
7. ‘You can either be a bystander who lives his life in reaction to the decisions that others make, or you can be the leader who is making those decisions.’
8. For that moment, I was a person without a last name and so was he. We did not have fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, uncles or cousins to remind of us what we owed or were owed. Obligation, consequence, tomorrow – the words did not exist, or perhaps I had temporarily forgotten their meanings.
Book Rating: 4 stars out of 5