Review: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Synopsis: 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 accidentally 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.

Engrossing and suspenseful, All These Things I've Done is an utterly unique, unputdownable read that blends both the familiar and the fantastic. [from Goodreads]

When I picked up All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin, I was reminded of how much I loved Gabrielle Zevin's novels. I first read Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac five years ago* and I loved it. Then, on a whim (and partially it was on a summer reading list for class that I didn't take) I read Elsewhere, which Zevin is known for. 

While All These Things I've Done is categorized as dystopian, it's not like the dystopian novels that readers are familiar with now, with heavy world building, futuristic gadgets, and almost always post-apocalyptic. While All These Things I've Done is set in the future, the world that it occupies is still much like our own, so much a like that I forgot that it wasn't. I suspect that it's set in the future only for the reason to have chocolate and coffee illegal. All These Things I've Done is much less dystopian than it is contemporary. 

All These Things I've Done is satisfying because it's a futuristic story that's actually about people, not half about the world they occupy. (Does that make sense? I hope it does.) Too much time is spent on world building and sometimes, I can care less that there are flying cars if the characters are flat. Anya has things that she values, her family, her friends and school and her flaws. She sometimes has issues reconciling her values and what she wants to do. Even as her relationship with Win develops, Anya is neither angsty or emotional, which is doubly satisfying. 

Plus, there are some nice quotes, which is always nice. Here's my particular favorite:
"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 sure Shakespeare would have agreed, too."
All These Things I've Done is told in first person, which I don't really mind, though what I did mind were the retrospective side notes that are occasionally dispersed in the text. It was distracting and occasionally so was Anya's self-consciousness when she recounts her tale but even so, All These Things I've Done is still a satisfying read. 

Despite all my love for All These Things I've Done, I'm not quite sure I'd want to read the sequel. I read the book thinking it was a stand-alone up until I looked the book up on Goodreads. All These Things I've Done is great as a stand-alone, but as a first novel in a series? I don't know and I don't think I want to know what comes after. For me, the Anya's story is complete and I think I'm satisfied with leaving it that way. 

*I didn't think it was five years ago but after some good unclogging of my mind, it was five years ago. Time flies.

P.S I think the cover that I used may not be the cover that is currently on All These Things I've Done in stores since there are two covers on Goodreads. 


  1. Sounds like an interesting book! But chocolate and coffee illegal?! I mean, coffee okay. I hate coffee (the taste and the smell) so good riddance! BUT A WORLD WITHOUT CHOCOLATE?! I can't even comprehend. lol. And I agree with you about dystopias! I always feel like an oddball because while others analyze a book's worldbuilding while reading, I often just accept whatever is given. I always choose to focus on the characters instead. I'm glad I'm not completely alone there! I'll have to keep a lookout for this bok, or any of Zevin's books. I've never heard of the author before, but she sounds like a good one!

  2. I hate the smell of coffee as well! I'll stomach it if I'm dead tired and need to be awake but that's it. CHOCOLATE IS AMAZING, ikr?

    I'm the same as you; I take the world as it comes (unless there's a huge scientific snafu, in which case I'll scratch my head and frown in confusion).

    Looking forward to your opinion of Zevin's books!

  3. I love Zevin's other novels as well. That quote is awesome, and I understand what you mean about not wanting to reading the sequel if the first book was a good enough ending for you. Glad you liked this one, great review!

    Alise @ Readers in Wonderland

  4. I felt very similar to you about this book. I felt the story was complete in itself, and never sought out the sequel. I also though that, though fun and nicely written, it was a tad forgettable. Great review :)

  5. What! Chocolate and coffee illegal?! Thank God this author doesn't see the future, or I'll be biting the bullet within the next few weeks >_> Even though it's unlikely I'll be alive until then xD

    Anyway... I've never read anything by Gabrielle Zevin, but this one sounds interesting. Finally a dystopian that doesn't revolve around the government being corrupt. At least the summary and your review never mention the government.

  6. I hadn't heard of this book. No caffeine and chocolate? NO!

  7. There are some corrupt officials in All These Things I've Done, but mostly I think, the government is okay. It's quite refreshing, really.


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