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 accidently 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. (goodreads.com)
I’m . . . underwhelmed by ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE. I was expecting more. More tension, more drama, higher stakes. Instead I got a vague world that doesn’t really carry any relevance to its own existence, characters that are a bit stilted, and a ho-hum plot that left me wondering when something was going to happen.
This felt like Zevin wanted to write about someone associated with organized crime without having to do any research for it, which would have been required if writing about something inspired by a current or past crime family. Instead she fasts forwards the timeline a few dozen years, makes chocolate illegal, and builds a “crime family” around a rather lazy idea spawned from watching The Godfather. Except a really light version of The Godfather. It’s very superficial and just skims the surface of organized crime which, I’m sure, would be excused away because it’s told from Anya’s perspective, who really wasn’t involved in much.
But then you have the world. There isn’t any real reason why the world is the way it is. Just that it got bad. Chocolate is illegal because it’s a stimulant? Maybe? Coffee is illegal too because I guess it hops kids up and people do crazy things when on coffee? It’s all very . . . nice try, but no. It’s all just very weak, a poorly developed futuristic New York that felt less like any kind of New York I know and more like this blurry watercolor painting of New York painted by someone who only has some vague idea of what New York, and world building, is actually like. I was disappointed.
And then you have Anya, who isn’t much her own character because she lives her life based on quotes her Daddy gave her. And it always annoys me when an author doesn’t use contractions, whether in dialogue or within a character’s head. I don’t know too many people who don’t use them and to have characters that constantly use words like ‘it is’ instead of ‘it’s’ really bugs me. It just comes off very stilted and unnatural and makes the characters seem stiff.
At the same time I can appreciate Anya’s logical approach to life. It’s a very emotionless approach, and doesn’t necessarily translate well onto the page, but I can appreciate it and I can definitely relate. She also had good interactions with people like Scarlet and Win and even Gable. The way she felt for her brother Leo and how she watched out for Natty were endearing. Her interactions with other characters were good, but her emotionless approach to comprehension and problem-solving proved to be a barrier.
The world was the biggest disappointment for me with ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE. Because of that everything else just crumpled around it. It was just fuel for a lazy fire and it’s all underwhelming, at best. I won’t be reading on in the series as a result.