The year is 2083 in All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin and the US has gone nuts, banning the life essentials of coffee and chocolate. Anya, 16, is doing the best she can by her family meaning she takes care of her brother, Leo, who has suffered a traumatic brain injury and thinks like an 8 year old, despite being 23, and her 12 year old sister Natty. With both parents dead, Anya’s legal guardian is her bedridden, dying grandmother, Nana. She’s definitely got a lot on her plate. Did I mention that her family is THE Balanchine family and have major ties to the chocolate market and are definitely a mob family.
I’m not sure why, but I just really love reading about the mafia. Even if the mafia involved are 1920s gangsters, or Marlon Brando/Al Pachino gangsters, but gangsters from the future. I still love it.
What struck me about Gabrielle Zevin’s All These Things I’ve Done is the sense of family and loyalty. Anya is incredibly dedicated to her family and she will throw down if she has to for her family. Plus she’s always quoting her dead father, who was once pretty much the Don of the family. I felt an outpouring of loyalty from Anya as I read about the sacrifices she makes. And well, I love the whole theme of sacrifice in these fantastical/dystopia novels because they almost mirror real life, in that no one I know is allowed to ‘have their cake and eat it too’ so to speak. I love how she is willing to give up certain things for her family’s protection, because I know I would probably do the same thing.
Further, there is this excellent juxtaposition (vocabulary what what) of Anya’s exboyfriend, Gable, and current romance, Win. And the thing is, it’s not really instalove at all between Anya and Win. We see him actually treating her well and respecting her wishes about sex, in opposition to Gable who tries to get some within the first 10 pages, even when Anya says no. I liked that Win was willing to get permission. I liked that he treated Anya well. It’s a nice treat to see fictional characters not be borderline abusive towards one another.
I also want to just MENTION that there are some gender politics in All These Things I’ve Done. You see, in the Balanchine family, a girl is never the crime boss. And throughout the book it’s acknowledged that Anya would make an excellent head of the family and there’s handwringing, the whole, if only she was born a female. I like that there is a nod to sexism and we don’t feel that it’s inevitable that obviously girls don’t have agency and can’t do things, because Anya has very much agency. She does what she must for her immediate family. She decides to take on punishment to save her brother.
I did feel that Anya’s voice was much too serious for a normal teen, but she is shaped by her experiences. I couldn’t help but love her, regardless. I felt an instant connection to her, maybe because she has a differently able sibling as well. Maybe because she takes on an adult caretaker role, despite being so young.
I very much enjoyed All These Things I’ve Done on a personal level. It’s not quite as cerebral as all goet out, but nonetheless it entertained me.
Disclosure: Received for review.