Patti and I flip flop on Gabrielle Zevin. We both loved Elsewhere. She was a fan of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and I suffered from not liking the main character's BFF. Zevin next wrote another adult novel but she's back this month with the first book in a new YA series: All These Things I've Done.
Anya Balanchine is a common enough YA heroine. You've read the story before: teen girl with no parents working hard to keep it together so she can finish school and take care of her siblings. Okay, so Anya and her younger sister witnessed their father's murder... their father the notorious Russian crime boss. Mom? Murdered. Older brother? In the car when mom was murdered and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Grandma? Okay! Grandma is fine. Confined to her bed with a breathing machine and likely to die at any moment, but still sort of sharp. Add in a great BFF Scarlet and a very swoon-worthy (and possibly too perfect) Win and we're off!
For this book, Zevin set her story in the future - 2083 NYC. In the 72 years between now and then, things have gone to hell in a hand basket. Empty buildings, abandoned parks, major landmarks re-purposed into nightclubs ...or juvie. I really enjoyed the NYC wasteland setting. Bleak and foreboding.
Coffee and chocolate are illegal in this future. (Also paper and a slew of other rules too numerous to remember and more than enough to keep the corrupt and overworked law enforcement busy.) Anya's mafia family deals in chocolate and Anya finds herself at juvie when one of her family's chocolate bars inconveniently brings a lousy ex-boyfriend to near death. Oh, that is just the first half of the book.
First novels in a series can be a mixed bag and that's what I found here. So much to like: the descriptive chapter titles, Anya, her siblings, the mafia mysteries - who do you trust-do I even trust Anya. But there are also the things that make you go Huh?: how coffee and chocolate are illegal but not beer, what in the heck happened in 72 years, and Anya conveniently remembers wise sayings from her dad. For me these bumps were not so much that I was distracted from the story. I was far more involved with what could be going down with the mafia and the knowledge that there will likely be more questions than answers by the last page. And of course there are. So I'll have to wait and see when book 2 arrives. (Hopefully next year?) ARGH. Waiting! Things that I'm looking forward to: maybe more Mouse, following in her father's footsteps by choice or force, Kyoto, the D.A., water war, and the location hint at the end of the video below.
Note: I also listened to part of the novel on CD. The narrator is Ilyana Kadushin who is widely known for reading the Twilight series. I used to listen to audiobooks all the time to and from work. Not so much since staying at home, but this CD reminded me how much I like being read to.
P.S. Read a recent post mentioning my 2011 Russian-American Trend. AND PLEASE, if you live near Austin, catch Gabrielle Zevin at the Austin Teen Book Festival on October 1. IT'S FREE. Years ago Patti and I saw her give a reading at BookPeople and she is just terrific.
Gabrielle Zevin on Tumblr
Official FB Fan Page
Behind the scenes and info about some of the landmarks w/ GZ PLUS a sneak peek at where the next book will be set.
Source: book - ARC from ALA sent by Patti, cd - sent by publisher