Tag Archives: young adult book

All These Things That I’ve Done

All These Things I’ve Done (Birthright) by Gabrielle Zevin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; $16.99; 368 pages)

While everyone’s lost, the battle is won/ With all these things that I’ve done (Time, truth and hearts)/ If you can hold on/ If you can hold on.   “All These Things That I’ve Done,” The Killers

Chocolate is contraband… caffeine is illegal…

In All These Things I’ve Done, Gabrielle Zevin creates a New York City some seventy years into the future, when dealing in and possession of chocolate is a crime.   Yes, it’s another dystopian young adult  novel, and faint whiffs of urban decay lend it an appropriate bleakness.   But several elements set it apart from the pack and make it an unusually entertaining read.

Firstly, although the government and police are the obvious heavies, the protagonist, Anya Balanchine, is not entirely a victim.   Rather, she is the scion of an illustrious crime boss, and when her louse of a boyfriend is poisoned by tainted chocolate, suspicion turns to her.

Secondly, the adult characters are almost as prominent as teen characters.   Particularly well drawn are Galina, Anya’s wise and street-savvy grandmother, and Charles Delacroix, the assistant district attorney, whose own agenda threatens to squash Anya’s chance at happiness.

Finally, there is Anya, herself.   At 16, she’s whip smart and calculating.   As the de facto “guardian” for her younger sister and older but impaired brother, she has to weigh her every move against the legal implications as well as the potential retaliations by her own extended crime family and other chocolate syndicates.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux released All These Things I’ve Done on September 6th.   And readers who find Anya Balanchine intriguing will have cause for celebration:  This is the first book in a series.   Well recommended.

Kimberly Caldwell

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Coming Up Next…

A review of All These Things I’ve Done: A YA Novel by Gabrielle Zevin.

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Coming Up Next…

A look at Delirium, a YA novel by Lauren Oliver.

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The Secret Lives of Dresses

The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean (5 Spot; $13.99; 304 pages)

Don’t be fooled by the naive feeling that permeates this novel at the outset.   The main character is twenty-year-old Dora Winston and her perspective on life shapes the story.   Dora, an orphan, was raised by her beloved paternal grandmother, Mimi Winston, who is a widow.   Their relationship affects the way Dora sees the world and is the basis for her intensely personal sense of values.   Dora’s parents died in an automobile crash when she was just a baby.   So Mimi is her whole family.

The reader is introduced to Dora as she is rushing to the hospital where Mimi is being treated for a stroke.   The stroke renders Mimi helpless and her doctors are on alert for any signs of consciousness.   The circumstances of Mimi’s stroke could be seen as devastating and yet, author McKean somehow manages to morph the story into a classic example of catastrophe = opportunity.

Dora steps up and chooses to keep her grandmother’s vintage women’s clothing store open for business, taking time away in the evenings to visit the hospital.   The clothing is not used in the sense of being secondhand; rather, each dress has a unique provenance.   Although the novel is not a mystery, there is a mysterious quality to McKean’s portrayal of the characters.   This reviewer wanted to know more about them and their lives.   There is a wide range for these characters which sets up good contrasts among contemporaries such as Dora and her cousin Tyffannee or Mimi and Gabby, her housemate.

Through trial and error Dora learns to maintain an open mind permitting her to see the world around her in an unfiltered manner.   She compares her inner hopes and dreams, or the lack thereof, with what’s actually possible.   Due to the wide variety of ages portrayed, McKean keeps her story from being typecast as a young adult book.   The maturity exhibited by Dora is a refreshing change from the self-centered way many twenty-somethings appear to behave on TV and in the movies.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher.

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