The year is 2083 and Anya Balanchine might outwardly appear like your typical 16-year-old girl from the twenty-first century, but outward appearances can be deceiving. In a world where chocolate and coffee are illegal, Anya has grown up in a family where chocolate is the family business. With both her parents having been murdered due to her father's mafia connections, and an ailing grandmother who is their legal guardian, Anya is the de facto head of her family. She does everything in her power to make sure she doesn't get separated from her siblings, which right off the bat, shows the reader how practical and matter-of-fact she is.
Only when she meets a new boy at school, who ironically happens to be the son of the assistant D.A., does she start to break down her barriers and open up. Even still, with the possibility of love on the horizon, you never feel like Anya doesn't have her wits about her. Her top priority is and always will be her family, so in that sense, her practicality ends up being likeable rather than frustrating. In the hands of a less dexterous author, a character so matter-of-fact and practical might come off as being cold and unfeeling, but Zevin skillfully creates a wonderfully empathetic character in Anya.
The narrator of the audiobook is Ilyana Kadushin, of Twilight fame, and her performance in this audiobook was as luscious as a Balanchine Special Dark chocolate bar. I think her narration of this book was far superior to her performance of the Twilight saga. I thought she wasn't expressive enough and rather one-dimensional in her Twilight performance, and her only saving grace was her exquisite voice. In All These Things I've Done, however, her performance was much more dynamic and expressive. Not only was her voice satisfying to listen to, but she learned from her previous experience that simply having a beautiful voice does not a good narrator make and that you need to put some emotion into it. In Twilight she was stoic and unfeeling, in All These Things I've Done, she was much more charismatic.
In reading other reviews of this novel, everyone labels the genre as dystopia, but I'm not really buying the dystopia moniker. Yes the book takes place in the future and yes, society seems to have degraded, but not enough of the American culture has changed for me to believe that this is a true dystopia. I guess the reason people have labeled it dystopia is because there isn't really any other genre it could be. To me though, it's sort of dystopia-lite. Even with the dubious genre labeling, this book is still worth every second of your time - whether you listen to it or read it. I will definitely be one the people coveting an ARC of the sequel!
All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Published: September 6, 2011 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux and Macmillan Audio
Audiobook length: 10 hours, 11 minutes
Audiobook narrator: Ilyana Kadushin
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: I received a copy of the book and audiobook for review