YA book review: All these things I’ve done by Gabrielle Zevin

***SPOILERS***

Set in 2083, All these things I’ve done gives us a glimpse of what the future would look like in a world where chocolate and caffeine are illegal and staples, such as paper, are rationed.  This dystopian novel is written as the confession of Anya Balanchine, daughter of an infamous mob boss.  Anya is not your typical teen.  On top of schoolwork and dealing with her sub par ex-boyfriend, she is also responsible for her younger sister and mentally handicapped older brother.  The last thing she can handle is a love affair with the Assistant D.A.’s son, Win.  But despite her efforts to stay away from Win and Win’s father’s efforts to keep them apart, the two seem fated to be together.  Will Anya be able to juggle all of her responsibilities and still have a normal relationship?

Zevin’s writing is sophisticated and is sure to keep teens reading.  For me, reading this book was like watching a tamer version of The Sopranos.  There certainly wasn’t as much violence, but the family dynamics, well drawn characters and suspenseful plot made for a compelling read.

Many YA dystopian novels focus on the oppressive aspects of the government, but All these things I’ve done takes a slightly different approach.  The government in this world is certainly oppressive; it bans certain substances in an attempt to gain control of society.  The rules about banned substances are always changing, making the government seem a little unsteady.  For example, the Assistant D.A. speaks openly about how much needs to be done to improve the city.  He is aware that there is a long road ahead before the community is running smoothly.  Towards the end of the book, Mickey (Anya’s cousin) wants to explore the possibility of working with the government to legalize the chocolate industry.  Even though Anya lives in a dangerous world, Zevin suggests that change may be possible through collaborating with the government (instead of rebelling against it).

All these things I’ve done explores what could happen to our natural resources in a realistic way.  Imagine a world where swimming pools are drained to combat the water shortage and books are recycled for more practical uses, like toilet paper.  Zevin succeeds in balancing the love story between Anya and Win with a detailed account of a possible future.  Teens who love dystopian fiction with devour this book and wait hungrily for the next installment of the Birthright series.

Recommendation:  5 out of 5 lupines

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