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

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin (Birthright #1)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: ARC (courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Genre: Dystopia, Young Adult
Publication Date: 09.06.2011
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.

All These Things I've Done is definitely unlike anything I have read before. I purposely didn't read any reviews before I read it, so I had no idea what to expect. I very much enjoyed the mafia crime family aspect of the story. It was interesting and a bit thrilling to read about, and is a new subject I would like to read about again.

The book is set in the near future, which meant that there were a lot of similarities to the world I know and understand now. I appreciate the fact that I could see myself living in the world Zevin describes, since I could (barring any diseases or accidents) be alive at the time this takes place. Another new experience for me, and something I would like to read more of in the future, as well.

I was a bit disappointed that the world building wasn't very strong. We are never told the reason why chocolate and caffeine have been outlawed, we just have to accept that it has happened. We aren't told to reason behind the paper, wax, ice cream, clothing, and food rations, either. And the main character, along with her family and friends, seemed to be able to get whatever they wanted or needed at any time, anyway. There was no trouble at all in getting a voucher for whatever item they needed, and if they didn't have a voucher, forging one was easily done. If they wanted chocolate or caffeine, there was a safe way to get those illegally, too. Most authorizes turned a blind eye to this, and those who didn't were never present in the story. This basically defeats the purpose of having these restrictions in the first place. Yes, there will always be some sort of black market for anything that is outlawed, but I doubt it would be as easy to buy or sell things as it seems to be in this book.

I don't think I can rightly call this Dystopia, either. There are changes in the world, and it sounds like Dystopia--and technically, the setting is--but the story isn't about the Dystopian setting. The story is really about the main character and her experiences with love, loss, and her mafia family, and is set in the future. Aside from the infrequent descriptions of the rations, there isn't a whole lot of Dystopia about it.

And just to be completely honest, I felt that the love story happened too quickly to be believable (Win gets clingy and talks about marriage way too soon after he and Anya start dating), but I'm trying not to be too nit picky. ;)

I hope this doesn't make it seem like I didn't enjoy the book, because I did. I was captivated by the story and the unique plot. The writing--while done in a very factual way, and told mostly in quick recaps of various events--felt very unique to the main character. She is a strong girl, who doesn't like to show emotion, and this showed in the way she told her story. While it lacked emotion and description, the main character had voice, and it felt right that she would tell her story in this way.

The main character also showed strong values, and dedication to her family. She believed in what she believed in, and felt strongly about it. She formed her entire life around taking care of her family, and put their needs above her own over and over again. It wasn't easy, and she had to make a lot of sacrifices, but she did it. Go Anya!

I recommend this book to those who want to read something different. You will read of experiences many characters in YA are never put through (until now, of course), and it has a main character who isn't made from your typical mold. I can see a lot of people loving this book, and its uniqueness makes it unforgettable.

Read this if:
...you want a unique plot and an inside look at what it's like to live in a mafia family.

Content Warning
*This section may contain some spoilers about content!*
Highlight between the brackets to reveal the text.
{Underage drinking, and some use of religious names as swear words.}

Pre-order All These Things I've Done:
Gabrielle Zevin:
Website  /  Twitter  /  Facebook  / Goodreads


  1. Hmm not sure how I feel about this now. The book sounds really good but I HATE a lack of world building, especially when an author does something like this (outlawing/rationing all those things) then never explaining why. It feels lazy to me. Thanks for your honest thoughts =]

    The Cait Files

  2. For some reason I could accept the lack of world building... it bugged me a bit, but I sort of saw the book as more of a personal narrative than a story about the world at large. I'm thinking/hoping we'll get more background about why things are the way they are in the 2nd book when Anya steps into a bigger role with her family.

    I loved the mafia/crime aspect too. It was just so interesting and unique.

  3. I really want to read this. The world building...if the book is strong enough, I think I'll be able to overlook that, though of course I'll be curious!

    I'm anxiously counting down the days...even more now!

  4. I thought that this was a dystopian novel. Thanks for letting me know about the difference. Fab review. It was very helpful

  5. Thanks for the review. I read someone else's review who felt the same way about the world building. That's usually something I don't care much about, but that's still good to know. I had no idea they were mobsters, either.

  6. Oooo doesn't sound too good. But thanks for your honesty. I really value your opinion.

  7. I am a little disappointed about the world building but it does sound like a good book.


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