Thursday, 29 March 2012

All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1)

All These Things I've Done(Birthright #1) by Gabrielle Zevin
Paperback, 352 pages

Expected Publication: March 29th 2012 by Pan Macmillan
(First published September 6th 2011)

My shelves: arc-or-review, books-i-own, dystopian, read-in-2012, sci-fi, series-or-companions, title-appeal, young-adult
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
Sixteen year-old Anya becomes the head of a mafia family after her parents are both murdered by rival gangs. Although Anya is embrolied in the criminal world, she is determined to keep her brother and sister out of the mafia family, but her father's relatives aren't so keen to let them go. When Anya's violent ex-boyfriend is poisoned with contaminated chocolate – chocolate that is produced illegally by Anya's mafia family – she is arrested for attempted murder and sent to the notorious jail on Manhattan Island.

Eventually she is freed by the new D.A. in town, who believs she has been framed. But this D.A. is the father of Win, a boy at school to whom Anya feels irresistibly drawn, and her freedom comes with conditions. Win's father wants to be mayor, and he can't risk having his ambition jeopardised by rumours spreading that his son is seeing a member of a notorious crime family. Anya knows she risks the safety of her family by seeing Win again, but the feeling between them may be too strong to resist...
My thanks go to Pan Macmillan for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

I was so excited to get my hands on a copy of this book as the premise sounded very original. I've read two of Zevin's other books (Elsewhere and Margarettown) and enjoyed them. All These Things I've Done certainly has that unique edge that Zevin's writing usually has. If you have read and enjoyed her other works, then you'll probably like this. I'm always cautious about being critical of the first book in a trilogy or series, as there is potential to expand and develop later on, but I simply feel that there is something missing from this book. 

The idea of a future where substances such as caffeine and chocolate are illegal and things we often take for granted today, such as paper, are scarce, isn't impossible but it is very intriguing. I think that the idea is great, it's something that interests me and it could have been portrayed so well. I thought that the world building was very lacklustre though - there were little, if any explanations as to why things were the way they were and the policing was very poor so it almost didn't matter that things were classed as illegal. I think that this is the thing that disappointed me the most as I was so excited about the setting. I was lead to think that this would be dystopian, but it certainly didn't seem that way. 

This book does have a 'thriller' feel to it, centralising around our narrator, Anya (Annie) who is torn between the boy she loves and her birthright - this is especially difficult for her as she was born into a mafia-type family, her murdered father being the head of the organisation. I have already read one mafia based story this year (Arcadia Awakens) which I found surprisingly enjoyable. The mafia aspect of this book was effective and didn't feel too dominating or complex. It added a sense of mystery and intrigue to the book and made me rightly cautious of a lot of the characters including the bad guy, Jacks, and some of Anya's other family members. I am surprised that Anya wasn't more suspicious herself! Caught up in dealings with Jacks and some others is Leo, Anya's brother who had an accident which left him with the mental age of an eight year old. I found Leo to be a super interesting character who was formed very well. I found both him and Natty, Anya's younger sister, to be very endearing and I loved their relationship with Anya.

A huge aspect of this book is the romance between Anya and Win, a new boy at her school. Anya later finds out that Win's father is the District Attorney and although he doesn't think that it's a good idea for his son to be in a relationship with her, he doesn't completely forbid it, at least not at the beginning. If he had, then the forbidden relationship may have been more interesting. I did, however take to Win and found myself really liking him. I'm not entirely sure how I felt about Anya. I completely respected her family loyalty. I did, at times, find her to be a little frustrating and harsh - she didn't always think about what she was saying or doing.

Whilst this book did manage to hold my attention, I felt as though it dragged at points. I felt as though I was waiting for something huge to happen, but it never did.Of course things did happen, but nothing that excited me or made me desperate to read on. I thought the most exciting part was perhaps the time Anya spent at Liberty (a camp for children who had committed crimes), but just when it was getting interesting, she was released! 

I don't think that this was a bad book, it just lacked something which could have made it more compelling. I'm not overly eager to read the next book, but I hope that it will develop the world building and be a bit more captivating. There was a lot going on in this one, so perhaps some focus is needed. A reasonably easy, but somewhat slow, book which I'd recommend to those who are perhaps already fans of Zevin's books. 


  1. this book sounds pretty good! Too bad that it didn't work out 100% for you, but you can't possibly like every book. great review ;)

  2. I felt the same way! The Liberty center part was so good, but so short! My favorite part of this book was Leo, so I may read the next one just to see what happens to him.

    Angie @ Pinkindle Reads & Reviews

  3. I've heard a lot of people say the same thing - it was good but it just lacked that something special. I do love the idea of a society where chocolate is illegal! *eek*

    -Jac @ For Love and Books

  4. Too bad it lacked some punch, this book.
    I love the premise but I admit I have been putting it off... and I think it just got bumped down a little more :(

  5. Hmm looking forward to reading my copy that I bought from my local Asda store.....A future where chocolate and caffeine are banned makes it sound a little dystopian.

  6. I read this one last month and I had pace problems with it too. The plot just fell flat. But the characters redeemed the book for me--especially Leo, who just broke my heart. Like you, I am too interested in continuing the series either.
    Instead of her time at Liberty (I agree that she was released too soon..and too easily) I found her brother's escape to be the most exciting part.

    Thanks for your review =)!
    Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

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