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Some four years after Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (2007), Zevin returns to teen fiction with a story about the daughter of a Russian-American crime boss making her way in a grimly familiar 2083.
This is no post-apocalyptic nightmare land. The only real clues readers have to a changed America are references to shortages of natural resources and increased regulation of just about everything. Most significantly for Anya Balanchine, chocolate is a controlled substance in this America, and her family is one of the five great chocolate families worldwide. Her parents both dead and her older brother brain-damaged as a result of their shadowy activities, Anya is de facto head of her own family, though not the Family. When she falls for Win Delacroix, the son of the new assistant DA, she knows the match is problematic. And when her ex-boyfriend is nearly fatally poisoned by a bar of illicit Balanchine Chocolate and she's briefly taken into custody, things become even more complicated. Zevin excels at inviting readers into Anya's mafiya paranoia—so much so that readers will be expecting double crosses that never happen, at least in this series opener. Anya is a likable character, though her retrospective and at times self-conscious account may distance readers.
Still, the love story's to die for, and the tangled web of relationships will keep readers intrigued to the last page. (Thriller. 14 & up)
“Narrator Ilyana Kadushin perfectly captures Anya’s character, providing the heroine with a voice that sounds young and vulnerable, but strong-willed…The excitement and drama of the book’s early chapters translate well to audio and will keep listeners on the edge of their seats.” – Publishers Weekly
“Narrator Ilyana Kadushin does an outstanding job voicing the various characters, adding credibility to the production. Although the story’s dystopian elements seem lightweight – humorous even – compared to the apocalyptic themes of other titles in the genre, the intriguing mystery and exceptional characterization will keep listeners thoroughly invested.” – School Library Journal
“Narrator Ilyana Kadushin quickly brings listeners into Anya’s life as she navigates the chaos all around her. Kadushin paces her performance to methodically reveal Anya’s intelligence and protectiveness of her family. Carefully measured emotion perfectly matches the carefully distanced feelings that Anya needs to keep in check in order to survive all the things thrown at her that she must do…Listeners will eagerly look forward to the next installment.” – Sound Commentary
Praise for the print edition of All These Things I've Done
“The story is incredibly compelling–an intriguing future with a classic tale of star-crossed lovers. Readers will be racing to find out the sequel’s release date as soon as they finish the last page.” —School Library Journal
“…romance fans will likely adore the star-crossed passionate romance, the heroic gestures, and the responsibility-be-damned happy ending that brings the protagonists back together.” —BCCB
“The talented Zevin writes Anya and Win’s high-wire romance as jolting for both the participants and readers.” —Booklist, starred review
“…the achingly realistic romance between this latter-day Romeo and Juliet, told in Anya’s earnest voice, will attract readers as surely as chocolate attracts…mobsters.” —Horn Book Magazine
“In Gabrielle Zevin's All These Things I've Done, we fast-forward to 2083. Chocolate and coffee are contraband (can you imagine?!), paper and water are scarce, and New York is crawling with crime and poverty. But this is normal for sixteen-year-old Anya Balachine, daughter of the city's late crime boss. Until, that is, the chocolate her family manufactures accidentally poisons her ex and all fingers are pointed at her.” –TeenVogue.com
“The love story’s to die for, and the tangled web of relationships will keep readers intrigued to the last page.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Offering the excitement of a crime drama and the allure of forbidden romance, this introduction to a reluctant Godfather-in-the making will pique the interest of dystopia-hungry readers.” –Publishers Weekly
THE NIGHT BEFORE JUNIOR YEAR—I was sixteen, barely—Gable Arsley said he wanted to sleep with me. Not in the distant or semidistant future either. Right then.
Admittedly, my taste in boys wasn’t so great. I was attracted to the sort who weren’t in the habit of asking permission to do anything. Boys like my father, I guess.
We’d just gotten back from the coffee speakeasy that used to be off University Place, in the basement of a church. This was back when caffeine, along with about a million other things, was against the law. So much was illegal (paper without a permit, phones with cameras, chocolate, etc.) and the laws changed so quickly, you could be committing a crime and not even know it. Not that it mattered. The boys in blue were totally overwhelmed. The city was bankrupt, and I’d say maybe 75 percent of the force had been fired. The police that were left didn’t have time to worry about teens getting high on coffee.
I should have known something was up when Gable offered to escort me back to the apartment. At night at least, it was a pretty dangerous trek from the speakeasy to where I lived on East Ninetieth, and Gable usually left me to fend for myself. He lived downtown, and I guess he figured that I hadn’t been killed making the trip yet.
We went into my apartment, which had been in the family practically forever—since 1995, the year my grandma Galina was born. Galina, who we called Nana and who I loved like nobody’s business, was busy dying in her bedroom. She had the distinction of being both the oldest and the sickest person I had ever known. As soon as I opened the door, I could hear the machines that were keeping her heart and everything else pumping. The only reason they hadn’t turned the machines off, like they would have for anyone else, was because she was responsible for my older brother, my little sister, and me. Her mind was still sharp, by the way. Even confined to the bed, not much got past her.
Gable had had, maybe, six espressos that night, two of them with shots of Prozac (also illegal)—and he was mad up. I’m not making excuses for him, only trying to explain a few things.
“Annie,” he said, loosening his necktie and sitting down on the couch, “you gots to have some chocolate in here. I know you do. I’m gagging for it. Come on, baby, hook Daddy up.” It was the caffeine talking. Gable sounded like a different person when he was on the stuff. I especially hated when he referred to himself as Daddy. I think he’d heard it in an old movie. I wanted to say, You aren’t my daddy. You’re seventeen years old, for God’s sake.Sometimes I did say this but mostly I let it go. My actual daddy used to say that if you didn’t let some things go, you’d spend your whole life fighting. Chocolate was why Gable’d said he wanted to come up to the apartment in the first place. I told him he could have one piece and then he had to leave. The first day of school was tomorrow (my junior year as I mentioned; his senior), and I needed to get some sleep.
We kept our chocolate in Nana’s room in a secret safe in the back of her closet. I tried to be real quiet as I walked past her bed. Not that there was much of a need for that. Her machines were as loud as the subway.
Nana’s room smelled like death, a combination of day-old egg salad (poultry was rationed) and overripe honeydew melons (fruit was pretty scarce) and old shoes and cleaning products (purchase permitted with voucher). I went into her walk-in closet, pushed her coats out of the way, and entered the combination. Behind the guns was the chocolate, which was superdark, with hazelnuts, and came from Russia. I put a bar in my pocket and closed the safe. On my way out, I stopped to kiss my grandmother on the cheek, and she woke up.
“Anya,” she croaked, “what time did you get home?”
I told her that I’d been home for a while. She’d never know the difference anyway and she’d only worry if she knew where I’d been. Then I told her to go back to sleep, that I hadn’t meant to wake her. “You need your rest, Nana.”
“What for? I’ll be resting forever soon enough.”
“Don’t talk like that. You’ll be alive a really long time,” I lied.
“There’s a difference between being alive and living,” shemuttered before changing the subject. “First day of school tomorrow.”
I was surprised she remembered.
“Go get yourself a nice chocolate bar from the closet, okay, Anyaschka?”
I did what she said. I put the bar from my pocket back in the safe and replaced it with a different, identical one.
“Don’t show anybody,” she said. “And don’t share it unless it’s with someone you really love.”
Easier said than done, I thought, but I promised I wouldn’t. I kissed my grandmother’s papery cheek again. I closed the door softly behind me. I loved Nana, but I couldn’t stand to be in that awful room.
When I went back out to the living room, Gable wasn’t there. I knew where he’d be.
Gable was lying in the middle of my bed, passed out. As I saw it, that was the problem with caffeine. A little of it, and you had a nice buzz. Too much, and you were a goner. At least, that’s how it was for Gable. I kicked him, not too hard, on the leg. He didn’t wake up. I kicked him again, harder. He grunted a little and rolled onto his back. I figured I’d let him sleep it off. If worst came to worst, I’d sleep on the couch. Anyway, Gable was cute when he slept. Harmless, like a puppy or a little boy. I suppose I liked him best that way.
I took my school uniform from my closet and laid it out on my desk chair for the next day. I organized my bag and charged up my slate. I broke off a single piece of dark chocolate. The flavor was strong and woodsy. I rewrapped the rest in its silver foil
and put it in my top drawer for safekeeping. I was glad I hadn’t had to share it with Gable.
You’re probably asking why Gable was my boyfriend when I barely wanted to share chocolate with him. The thing is, he wasn’t boring. He was a little dangerous and, stupid girl that I was, I guess I found that sort of thing attractive. And—God rest your soul, Daddy—it could be said that I lacked positive male role models. Besides, sharing chocolate wasn’t some casual thing: it really was hard to come by.
I decided to take a shower so I wouldn’t have to do it in the morning. When I got out ninety seconds later (everyone’s showers ran on timers because of how expensive water was getting), Gable was sitting cross-legged on my bed while stuffing the last of my chocolate bar down his throat.
“Hey,” I said, my towel wrapped around me, “you went into my drawer!”
Chocolate was smudged on his thumb, index finger, and the inside corners of his mouth. “I wasn’t snooping. I sniffed it out,” he said in the middle of a bite. He paused chomping long enough to look up at me. “You look pretty, Annie. Clean.”
I wrapped my towel tighter around myself. “Well, now that you’re awake and you’ve had your chocolate, you should leave,” I said.
He didn’t move.
“Come on, then! Out!” I said this strongly, if not loudly. I didn’t want to wake my siblings or Nana.
That’s when he told me that he thought we should have sex.
“No,” I said, wishing very much that I hadn’t been so foolish
as to take a shower while a dangerous, overcaffeinated boy lay in wait on my bed. “Absolutely not.”
“Why not?” he asked. And then he said that he was in love with me. It was the first time a boy had ever told me that. Even as inexperienced as I was, I could tell he didn’t mean it.
“I want you to go,” I said. “We’ve got school tomorrow, and we both should get some sleep.”
“I can’t go now. It’s past midnight.”
Not that there were enough cops to enforce it, but midnight was the citywide, under-eighteen curfew. It was only 11:45, so I lied and told him he could still make it if he ran.
“I’ll never make it, Annie. Besides, my parents aren’t home, and your grandma will never know if I stay. Come on, be sweet to me.”
I shook my head and tried to look tough, which was somewhat hard to do while wearing a yellow, flowered towel.
“Doesn’t it count for anything that I just told you I love you?” Gable asked.
I considered this briefly before deciding that it didn’t. “Not really. Not when I know you don’t mean it.”
He looked at me with big, dumb eyes like I had hurt his feelings or something. Then he cleared his throat and tried a different technique. “Come on, Annie. We’ve been together almost nine months. That’s the longest I’ve ever been with anyone. So … Like … Why not?”
I gave him my list. One, I said, we were too young. Two, I didn’t love him. And three, the most important of all, I didn’t believe in sex before marriage. I was a mostly good Catholic girl, and I knew exactly where the type of behavior he was suggesting
would get me: straight to Hell. For the record, I very much believed (and believe) in Heaven and Hell, and not in an abstract way either. More about this later.
His eyes were a little crazy—maybe it was the contraband he’d consumed—and he got up from the bed and walked closer to me. He started tickling my bare arms.
“Stop that,” I said. “Seriously, Gable, this isn’t funny. I know you’re trying to get me to drop my towel.”
“Why’d you take that shower if you didn’t want—”
I told him I’d scream.
“And then what?” he asked. “Your grandma can’t get out of bed. Your brother’s a retard. And your sister’s just a kid. All you’ll do is make them upset.”
Part of me couldn’t believe this was actually happening in my own house. That I’d allowed myself to be so witless and vulnerable. I hooked my towel under my armpits, and I pushed Gable away as hard as I could. “Leo is not a retard!” I yelled.
I heard a door open at the end of the hallway and then, footsteps. Leo, who was tall like Daddy had been (six feet five inches), appeared in my doorway wearing pajamas with a pattern of dogs and bones on them. Even though I had been handling things, I had never been so happy to see my big brother. “Hey, Annie!” Leo wrapped me in a quick hug before turning to my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. “Hello, Gable,” Leo said. “I heard noise. I think you should leave now. You woke me which is okay. But if you wake Natty that won’t be good because she has to go to school tomorrow.”
Leo led Gable to our front door. I didn’t relax until I heard it shut and Leo had latched the chain.
“I don’t think your boyfriend is very nice,” Leo told me when he got back.
“You know what? I don’t think so either,” I said. I picked up Gable’s discarded chocolate wrappers and crushed them into a ball. By Nana’s standards, the only chocolate-worthy boy in my life was my brother.
The first day of school stunk more than most first days of school, and they tend to stink as a rule. Everyone had already heard that Gable Arsley and Anya Balanchine were over. This was annoying. Not because I had had any intention of staying with him after the foul he’d committed the night before, but because I’d wanted to be the one to break up with him. I’d wanted him to cry or yell or apologize. I’d wanted to walk away and not look back as he called my name. That sort of thing, right?
I have to admit: it was amazing how fast the rumors spread. Minors weren’t allowed to have their own phones, and no one of any age could publish, virtually or otherwise, without a license or even send an e-mail without paying postage and yet gossip always finds a way. And a good lie travels a heck of a lot faster than the sad, boring truth. By third period, the story of my breakup had been carved in stone, and I hadn’t been the one doing the carving.
I skipped fourth period to go to confession.
When I entered the confessional, I could see the distinctly female silhouette of Mother Piousina through the screen. Believe it or not, she was the first female priest Holy Trinity School had ever had. Even though these were supposedly modern times and everyone was supposedly enlightened, more than a few parents had complained when the Board of Overseers had announced her as their selection the prior year. There were some people who just weren’t comfortable with the idea of a lady priest. In addition to being a Catholic school, HT was also one of the better schools in Manhattan. Parents who paid its exorbitant tuition did so with the understanding that the school wasn’t allowed to change no matter how bad things got everywhere else.
I kneeled down and crossed myself. “Bless me, Mother, for I have sinned. It has been three months since my last confession …”
“What’s troubling you, daughter?”
I told her how I’d been having impure thoughts about Gable Arsley all morning. I didn’t use his name but Mother Piousina probably knew who I was talking about anyway. Everyone else at school did.
“Are you considering having intercourse with him?” she asked. “Because action would be an even greater sin than the thoughts themselves.”
“I know that, Mother,” I said. “Nothing like that. The thing is, this boy’s been spreading rumors about me, and I’ve just been thinking how I hate him and I want to kill him or at least hurt him a little.”
Mother Piousina laughed in a way that only somewhat offended me. “Is that everything?” she asked.
I told her that I’d used the Lord’s name in vain several times over the summer. Most of the instances had occurred during the mayor’s Great Air-Conditioning Ration. One of our “off days” had coincided with the hottest day in August. Between the 110-degree temperature and the heat generated by Nana’s many machines, the apartment had been a pretty close approximation of Hell.
“One more thing. My grandmother is very sick and even though I love her”—this was really hard for me to say—“sometimes I wish she would just die already.”
“You don’t want to see her suffer. God understands that you don’t mean it, my child.”
“Sometimes I have bad thoughts about the dead,” I added.
“My father mainly. But my mother sometimes, too. And sometimes—”
Mother Piousina interrupted. “Perhaps three months is too long for you to go between confessions, daughter.” She laughed again which annoyed me, but I continued anyway. The next one was the hardest to say.
“Sometimes I am ashamed of my older brother, Leo, because he’s … It’s not his fault. He’s the kindest, most loving brother but … You probably know that he’s a little slow. Today, he wanted to walk me and Natty to school but I told him that my grandmother needed him at home and that he’d be late for his job. Both lies.”
“Is this your entire confession?”
“Yes,” I said, bowing my head. “I’m sorry for these and all the sins of my past life.” Then I prayed the Act of Contrition.
“I absolve you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” Mother Piousina said. She told me to say a Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer as penance, which seemed a ridiculously minor punishment. Her predecessor, Father Xavier, really knew how to give a good penance.
I stood. I was about to open the burgundy curtain when she called to me, “Anya, light a candle for your mother and father in Heaven.” She slid open the screen and handed me two candle vouchers.
“We’re supposed to ration candles now,” I grumbled. With the endless stupid coupons and stamps (weren’t we supposed to be rationing paper?), the arbitrary point system, and the constantly changing rules, ration laws were incredibly annoying and impossible to keep up with. It was no wonder so many people bought goods on the black market.
“Look on the bright side. You can still have as much of the host as you want,” Mother Piousina replied.
I took the slips and thanked Mother Piousina. For all the good lighting candles would do, I thought bitterly. I was pretty sure my father was in Hell.
After giving my vouchers to a nun with a wicker ticket basket and a box of votives, I went into the chapel and lit a candle for my mother.
I prayed that, despite having married the head of the Balanchine crime family, Mom somehow wasn’t in Hell.
I lit a candle for my father.
I prayed that Hell wasn’t so bad, even for a murderer.
I missed them both so much.
My best friend, Scarlet, was waiting for me in the hallway outside the chapel. “Nice work skipping Fencing on the first day, Miss Balanchine,” she said, linking her arm through mine. “Don’t worry. I covered for you. I said you were having scheduling issues.”
“No problem. I can already see exactly what sort of year this is going to be. Shall we go to the caf?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Yes, you could spend the rest of the school year hiding in the church,” she said.
“Maybe I’ll even become a nun and swear off boys forever.”
Scarlet turned to study me. “No. Your face wouldn’t be good in a habit.”
On the walk to the dining hall, Scarlet filled me in on what Gable had been telling people, but I had overheard most of it already. The most important points were that he had broken up with me because he thought I might be a caffeine addict, because I was “kind of a slut,” and because the start of a school year was a good opportunity for “taking out the trash.” I comforted myself with the thought that if Dad had been alive, he probably could have had Gable Arsley killed. “So you know,” Scarlet said, “I did defend your honor.”
I was sure Scarlet probably had but no one ever listened to her. People thought of her as the crazy drama girl. Pretty and ridiculous.
“Anyway,” she said, “everyone knows that Gable Arsley is a horse’s backside. The whole thing’ll blow over by tomorrow. Everyone’s only talking about it because they’re losers with no lives of their own. And also, it’s the first day of school so nothing else has happened yet.”
“He called Leo a retard. Did I tell you that part?”
“No!” Scarlet said. “That’s pure evil!”
We were standing in front of the double doors that led into the dining hall. “I hate him,” I said. “I really and truly hate him.”
“I know,” Scarlet agreed, pushing the doors open. “I never knew what you saw in him in the first place.” She was a good friend.
The dining hall had wood-paneled walls and black-and-white linoleum tiles like a chessboard, which made me feel like a piece in a chess game. I saw Gable seated at the head of one of the long tables by the window. He had his back to the doors, so he didn’t see me, though.
Lunch that day was lasagna, which I have always detested. The red sauce reminded me of blood and guts, and the ricotta cheese, of brain matter. I’d seen guts and brain matter for real so I knew what I was talking about. In any case, I wasn’t hungry anymore.
Once we sat down, I pushed my tray toward Scarlet. “You want?”
“One’s more than enough, thanks.”
“All right, let’s talk about something else,” I said.
“Don’t you say that name, Scarlet Barber!”
“Other than the horse’s backside,” Scarlet said, and we both laughed. “Well, there’s a most promising new boy in my French class. Actually, he kind of looks like a new man. He’s all, I don’t know, manly. His name’s Goodwin but he goes by Win. Isn’t that OMG?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Um, it stands for something. Dad said it used to mean, maybe, ‘amazing’? Or something like that? He wasn’t sure. Ask your nana, okay?”
I nodded. Scarlet’s dad was an archaeologist and he always smelled like garbage because he passed his days digging up landfills. Scarlet went on about the new boy for a while but I wasn’t really paying attention. I couldn’t have cared less. I just nodded occasionally and pushed my repulsive lasagna around my plate.
I looked across the cafeteria. Gable caught my eye. What happened next is somewhat blurry to me. He would later claim that he hadn’t, but I thought he sneered at me, then whispered something to the girl sitting to the left of him—she was a sophomore, maybe even a freshman, so I didn’t know who she was—and they both laughed, and in response, I lifted my plate with the uneaten, though still scalding-hot lasagna (all food was required by law to be heated to 176°F to avoid the bacterial epidemics that were so pervasive), and then I was running diagonally across the black-and-white linoleum floor like a bishop gone mad and just like that Gable’s head was covered with ricotta and tomato sauce.
Gable stood, and his chair toppled over. We were face-to-face, and it was like everyone else in the dining hall had disappeared. Gable started to yell, calling me a string of names that I won’t bother to repeat here. I’d rather not type a whole long list of curse words.
“I accept your condemnation,” I said.
He moved to punch me but then he stopped himself. “You’re not worth it, Balanchine. You’re scum like your dead parents,” he said. “I’d rather just get you suspended.” As he left the dining hall, he tried to wipe off some of the sauce with his hand, but it didn’t do any good. The sauce was everywhere. I smiled.
At the end of eighth period, I was delivered a summons to appear in Headmaster’s office after school.
Most everyone managed to avoid getting into trouble on the first day of school so there weren’t that many people waiting. The door was closed which meant someone was already in the office, and a long-legged guy I didn’t know waited on the love seat in the foyer. The secretary told me I should have a seat.
The boy was wearing a gray wool hat that he took off as I passed. He nodded, and I nodded back. He looked at me sidelong. “Food fight, right?”
“Yeah, you could call it that.” I wasn’t in the mood for making new friends. He crossed his hands on his lap. He had calluses on his fingers and despite myself, I found this interesting.
He must have seen me staring because he asked me what I was looking at.
“Your hands,” I replied. “They’re kind of rough for a city boy.”
He laughed and said, “I’m from upstate. We used to grow our own food. Most of the calluses are from that. A couple are from my guitar. I’m no good; I just like to play. The rest I can’t explain.”
“Interesting,” I said.
“Interesting,” he repeated. “I’m Win, by the way,” he said.
I turned to look at him. So, this was Scarlet’s new boy? She was right. He certainly wasn’t hard to look at. Tall and thin. Tanned skin and toned arms which must have come from the farming he’d mentioned. Soft blue eyes and a mouth that seemed more inclined to smile than to frown. Not my usual type at all.
He offered me his hand to shake, and I accepted it. “An—” I started to say.
“Anya Balanchine, I know. Everyone can’t seem to stop talking about you today.”
“Hmmph,” I said. I could feel my face getting flushed. “Then you probably think that I’m crazy and a slut and an addict and a mafiya princess so I don’t even know why you’re bothering to talk to me!”
“I don’t know about here, but where I’m from, we come to our own conclusions about people.”
“Why are you here?” I asked him.
“That’s an awfully big question, Anya.”
“No, I meant here outside this office. What did you do wrong?”
“Multiple choice,” he said. “A. A few pointed comments I made in Theology. B. Headmaster wants to have a chat with the new kid about wearing hats in school. C. My schedule. I’m just too darn smart for my classes. D. My eyewitness account of the girl who poured lasagna over her boyfriend’s head. E. Headmaster’s leaving her husband and wants to run away with me. F. None of the above. G. All of the above.”
“Ex-boyfriend,” I mumbled.
“Good to know,” he said.
At that moment, Headmaster’s door opened, and out came Gable. His face was pink and splotchy from where the sauce had hit him. His white dress shirt was covered in sauce, which I knew was probably bothering the heck out of him.
Gable scowled at me and whispered, “Not worth it.”
Headmaster poked her head out the door. “Mr. Delacroix,” she said to Win, “would it prove a terrible inconvenience to you if I saw Ms. Balanchine first?”
He consented, and I went into the office. Headmaster shut the door behind us.
I already knew what would happen. I was put on probation and assigned lunch duty for the rest of the week. All things considered, pouring the lasagna on Gable’s head had still been completely worth it.
“You must learn to resolve these little relationship problems outside of Holy Trinity, Ms. Balanchine,” Headmaster said.
It somehow seemed beside the point to mention that Gable had tried to date-rape me the night before.
“I considered calling your grandmother Galina, but I know she’s been in poor health. No need to worry her.”
“Thank you, Headmaster. I appreciate it.”
“Honestly, Anya, I worry for you. This kind of behavior, if it becomes a pattern, could be damaging to your reputation.”
As if she didn’t know that I’d been born with a bad reputation.
When I left the office, my twelve-year-old sister, Natty, was sitting next to Win. Scarlet must have told her where to find me. Or maybe Natty had guessed—I was no stranger to the head-master’s office. Natty was wearing Win’s hat. They’d obviously been introduced. What a little flirt she was! Natty was cute, too. She had long, shiny black hair. Like mine, except hers was stick-straight while I was stuck with untamable waves.
“Sorry about stealing your place in line,” I said to Win.
“Give Win back his hat,” I told Natty.
“It looks good on me,” she said, batting her eyelashes.
I took it off her head and handed it to Win. “Thanks for babysitting,” I said.
“Stop infantilizing me,” Natty protested.
“That’s a very good word,” Win commented.
“Thank you,” Natty replied. “I happen to know lots of them.”
Just to annoy Natty, I took her by the hand. We were almost to the hallway when I turned around and said, “My bet’s on C. You’re probably too smart for your schedule.”
He winked—who winked? “I’ll never tell.”
Natty actually sighed. “Oh,” she said. “I like that.”
I rolled my eyes as we went out the door. “Don’t even think about it. He’s way too old for you.”
“Only four years,” Natty said. “I asked.”
“Well, that’s a lot when you’re twelve.”
We had missed our regular crosstown bus and, due to MTA budget cuts, the next one wasn’t for another hour. I liked to try to be home when Leo got back from work and I decided that it would take less time for us to walk across the park back to our apartment. Daddy once told me how the park used to be when he was a kid: trees and flowers and squirrels, and lakes where people could canoe, and vendors selling every kind of food imaginable, and a zoo and hot-air balloon rides and in the summer, concerts and plays, and in the winter, ice skating and sledding. It wasn’t like that anymore.
The lakes had dried up or been drained, and most of the surrounding vegetation had died. There were still a few graffiti-covered statues, broken park benches, and abandoned buildings, but I couldn’t imagine anyone willingly spending time there. For Natty and me, the park was a half mile to be gotten across as quickly as possible, preferably before nightfall when it became a gathering place for just about every undesirable in the city. Incidentally, I’m not entirely sure how it got so bad, but I imagine it was like everything else in the city—lack of money, lack of water, lack of leadership.
Natty was pissed at me for making the crack about babysitting in front of Win, so she refused to walk with me. We were just across the Great Lawn (which, I suppose, must have had grass at some point) when she ran ahead about twenty-five feet.
Then one hundred.
“Come on, Natty,” I yelled. “It’s not safe! You’ve got to stay with me!”
“Stop calling me Natty. My name is Nataliya, and for your information, Anya Pavlova Balanchine, I can take care of myself!”
I ran to catch up with her but by then she’d put even more distance between us. I could barely see her anymore; she was a tiny dot in a schoolgirl uniform. I ran even faster.
Natty was behind the glass section of the enormous building that used to be an art museum (now a nightclub) and she wasn’t alone.
An incredibly skinny child, dressed in rags and, coincidentally, a decades-old Balanchine Chocolate Factory T-shirt, was holding a gun to my sister’s head. “Now your shoes,” he said in a squeak of a voice.
Natty sniffled as she bent down to unlace her shoes.
I looked at the child. The boy, despite being emaciated, seemed sturdy, but I was pretty sure I could take him. I scanned the area to see if he had any accomplices. No. We were alone. The real problem was the gun and so I considered the gun.
Now, what I did next might sound reckless to you.
I stepped between my sister and the boy.
“Anya! No!” my baby sister screamed.
My dad, you see, had taught me a thing or two about guns, and this kid’s handgun didn’t have a clip. In other words, no bullets unless there was one in the chamber, and I was betting that there wasn’t.
“Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” I asked the boy. In point of fact, the boy was three inches shorter than Natty. Up close, I could see he was younger than I had thought—maybe eight or nine years old.
“I’ll shoot you,” the boy said. “I’ll do it.”
“Yeah?” I asked. “I’d like to see you try.”
I grabbed his gun by the barrel. I thought about tossing it into the bushes, but I decided I didn’t want him terrorizing any more people. I put it in my bag. It was a nice weapon. Would have done a heck of a job killing my sister and me. Had it been functional, that is.
“Come on, Natty. Get your stuff back from the kid.”
“He hadn’t taken anything yet,” Natty said. She was still a bit teary.
I nodded. I handed Natty my pocket handkerchief and told her to blow her nose.
At this point, the would-be mugger had started to cry, too. “Gimme back my gun!” He lunged at me, but the kid was weak with hunger, I’d guess, and I barely felt him.
“Look, I’m sorry, but you’re gonna get yourself killed waving that broken gun around.” This was true. I wouldn’t be the only person who would notice he didn’t have a clip and, likely as not, the type of person who noticed such a thing would shoot the kid between the eyes without a second thought. I felt a bit bad about taking his gun, so I gave him what money I had on me. Not much, but it’d keep the kid in pizza for a night.
Without even a moment’s reflection, he took my offerings. Then he yelled an obscene name at me and disappeared into the park.
Natty gave me her hand, and we walked in silence until we were in the relative safety of Fifth Avenue.
“Why’d you do that, Annie?” she whispered as we were waiting for a walk signal. I could barely hear her above the city noise. “Why’d you give him all that stuff after he tried to rob me?”
“Because he was less fortunate than us, Natty. And Daddy always said that we have to be mindful of those who are less fortunate.”
“But Daddy killed people, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” I admitted. “Daddy was complex.”
“Sometimes, I can’t even remember what he looked like,” Natty said.
“He looked like Leo,” I said. “Same height. Same black hair. Same blue eyes. But Daddy’s eyes were hard and Leo’s are soft.”
Back at the apartment, Natty went into her bedroom, and I scrounged around for something for dinner. I was an uninspired chef but if I didn’t cook, we’d all starve. Except for Nana. Her meals were delivered to her via tube by a home-health-care worker named Imogen.
I boiled exactly six cups of water per the package’s instructions and then threw in the macaroni. At least Leo would be happy. Macaroni and cheese was his favorite.
I went to knock on his door to tell him the good news. There was no answer, so I opened it. He should have been home from his part-time job at the veterinary clinic for at least two hours, but his room was empty aside from his collection of stuffed lions. The lions looked at me questioningly with their dull plastic eyes.
I went into Nana’s room. She was asleep, but I woke her up anyway.
“Nana, did Leo say if he was going anywhere?”
Nana reached for the rifle she kept under her bed, and then she saw that it was me. “Oh, Anya, it’s only you. You scared me, devochka.”
“Sorry, Nana.” I kissed her on the cheek. “It’s just Leo’s not in his room. I was wondering if he said he was going anywhere.”
Nana thought about this. “No,” she said finally.
“Did he come home from work?” I asked, trying not to sound impatient. Clearly, Nana was having one of her less cogent days.
Nana considered this for about a million years. “Yes.” She paused. “No.” She paused again. “I’m not sure.” Another pause. “What day of the week is this, devochka? I lose track of time.”
“Monday,” I told her. “The first day of school, remember?”
“It’s almost over, Nana.”
“Good. Good.” Nana smiled. “If it’s still Monday, that bastard Jakov came to see me today.” She meant bastard literally. Jakov (pronounced Ya-koff) Pirozhki was my father’s half brother’s illegitimate son. Jakov, who called himself Jacks, was four years older than Leo, and I had never much liked him since the time he’d had too much Smirnoff at a family wedding and tried to touch my breast. I’d been thirteen; he’d been almost twenty. Disgusting. Despite this, I’d always felt a little sorry for Jacks because of the way everyone in my family looked down on him.
“What did Pirozhki want?”
“To see if I was dead yet,” Nana said. She laughed and pointed to the cheap pink carnations that were sitting in a shallowly filled vase on the windowsill. I hadn’t noticed them. “Ugly, aren’t they? Flowers are so hard to come by these days, and that’s what he brings? I suppose it’s the thought that counts. Maybe Leo’s with the bastard?”
“That’s not nice, Nana,” I said.
“Oh, Anyaschka, I would never say it in front of him!” she protested.
“What would Jacks want with Leo?” I had only ever known Jacks to ignore or show outright contempt for my brother.
Nana shrugged, which was difficult for her to do considering how little mobility she had. I could see that her eyelids had begun to flutter shut. I squeezed her hand.
Without opening her eyes, she said, “Let me know when you find Leonyd.”
I went back into the kitchen to tend to the macaroni. I called Leo’s job to see if he was still there. They said he’d left at four as usual. I didn’t like not knowing where my brother was. He might be nineteen, three years my senior, but he was and would always be my responsibility.
Not long before my father was killed, Daddy made me promise that if anything ever happened to him, I would take care of Leo. I’d only been nine years old at the time, roughly the same age as that little mugger, and too young to really know what I was agreeing to. “Leo is a gentle soul,” Daddy had said. “He isn’t fit for our world, devochka. We must do everything we can to protect him.” I’d nodded, not quite understanding that Daddy had sworn me to a lifelong commitment.
Leo hadn’t been born “special.” He had been like any kid, if not, from my father’s point of view, better. Smart, the spitting image of Daddy, and best of all, the firstborn son. Daddy had even given him his name. Leo was actually Leonyd Balanchine, Jr.
The year Leo was nine, he and my mother had been driving out to Long Island to visit my maternal grandmother. My sister and I (ages two and six) had strep throat and had to stay behind. Daddy had agreed to stay with us, though I doubt it was much of a sacrifice as he’d never been able to tolerate Grandma Phoebe.
The hit had been meant for Daddy, of course.
My mother was killed instantly. Two shots through the windshield and straight through her lovely forehead and honey-scented chestnut curls.
The car my mother had been driving slammed into a tree as did Leo’s head.
He lived, but he couldn’t talk anymore. Or read. Or walk. My father had him sent to the best rehabilitation center followed by the best school for learning disabilities. And Leo certainly got a lot better, but he would never be the same. They said my brother would always have the intellect of an eight-year-old. They said my brother was lucky. And he was. Though I knew his limitations frustrated him, Leo managed a lot with the intellect he had. He had a job where everyone thought he was a hard worker, and he was a good brother to Natty and me. When Nana died, Leo would become our guardian—just until I turned eighteen.
I had added the cheese sauce and was considering calling the cops (for all the good that would do) when I heard the front door open.
Leo bounded into the kitchen. “You’re making macaroni, Annie!” He threw his arms around me. “I have the best sister!”
I pushed Leo gently away. “Where were you? I was crazy worried. If you’re going out, you’re supposed to either tell Nana or write me a note.”
Leo’s face fell. “Don’t be mad, Annie. I was with our family. You said it was okay as long as I was with family.”
I shook my head. “I only meant Nana, Natty, or me. Immediate family. That means—”
Leo interrupted me. “I know what that means. You didn’t say immediate.”
I was pretty sure I had, but whatever.
“Jacks told me you wouldn’t mind,” Leo continued. “He said he was family, and you wouldn’t mind.”
“I bet he did. Is that the only person you were with?”
“Fats was there, too. We went to his place.”
Sergei “Fats” Medovukha was my father’s cousin and the owner of the speakeasy Gable and I had been at the night before. Fats was fat, which was less common in those days. I liked Fats as much as I liked anyone in my extended family, but I’d told him that I didn’t want Leo hanging out at his bar.
“What did they want with you, Leo?”
“We got ice cream. Fats closed his place, and we went out for it. Jacks had … What do you call it, Annie?”
“Yeah, that’s it!”
And if I knew my cousin, he’d probably made those vouchers himself.
“I had strawberry,” Leo continued.
“Don’t be mad, Annie.”
Leo looked like he might cry. I took a deep breath and tried to control myself. It was one thing to lose my temper with Gable Arsley but behaving that way around Leo was completely unacceptable. “Was the ice cream good?”
Leo nodded. “Then we went … Promise you won’t be mad.”
“Then we went to the Pool.”
The Pool was in the nineties on West End Avenue. It used to be a women’s swimming club back before the first water crisis, when all the pools and fountains had been drained. Now, the Family (by which I mean the semya, or the Balanchine Family crime syndicate) used it as their primary meeting place. I guess they got the space on the cheap.
“Leo!” I yelled.
“You said you wouldn’t be mad!”
“But you know you’re not supposed to go to the west side without telling someone.”
“I know, I know. But Jacks said that a lot of people wanted to meet me there. And he said they were family so you wouldn’t mind.”
I was so angry I couldn’t speak. The macaroni had cooled enough to be eaten so I began to serve it into bowls. “Wash your hands, and tell Natty that dinner is ready.”
“Please don’t be mad, Annie.”
“I’m not mad at you,” I said.
I was about to make Leo promise that he would never go back there when he said, “Jacks said maybe I could get a job working at the Pool. You know, in the family business.”
It was all I could manage not to throw the macaroni against the wall. Still, I knew it was no good getting mad at my brother. Not to mention, it seemed excessive to commit two violent acts with pasta in the same day. “Why would you want to do that? You love working at the clinic.”
“Yeah, but Jacks thought it might be good if I worked with the Family”—he paused—“like Daddy.”
I nodded tightly. “I don’t know about that, Leo. They don’t have animals to pet at the Pool. Now, go get Natty, okay?”
I watched my brother as he left the kitchen. To look at him, you wouldn’t know anything was wrong with him. And maybe we made too much of his handicaps. It couldn’t be denied that Leo was handsome, strong, and, for all intents and purposes, a grownup. The last part terrified me, of course. Grownups could get themselves in trouble. They could get taken advantage of. They could get sent to Rikers Island, or worse: they could end up dead.
As I filled glasses with water, I wondered what my padonki half cousin was up to and how much of a problem this was going to be for me.
All These Things I've Done Copyright © 2011 by Gabrielle Zevin.
Posted September 7, 2011
I was way excited that I was able to get an ARC of this book. I had been hearing a lot of good buzz and you all know I have a thing for dystopian fiction. I was definitely not disappointed. The book takes place in the not too distant future (the grandmother in the book was born during the 1990s) in New York City. The NYC in this book seems both familiar and strange at the same time. It's still a bustling city but many things have changed. Former museums have been turned into nightclubs as a way for the ailing government to make money. Caffeine and chocolate are outlawed as a way for the government to have control while teenagers are able to drink really horrible alcohol. I thought the world building in this book was pretty interesting.
Anya is part of a crime family who has specialized in the chocolate business for many years. After Anya's parents are killed, it pretty much falls to her to protect her family. Anya is a pretty interesting character. She's strong yet sort of vulnerable. She loves her family but is sort of disillusioned with her family's infamous business especially since it seems that the business is the reason that both of her parents are killed.
The writing is tight and I got sucked into the story. Interestingly enough, I thought this book was a stand alone book but when I went to Goodreads, I found out that this is apparently the first book in the series. I'd definitely be interested in reading the rest of the books in the series and finding out more about Anya and her family.
Bottom line, this book did not disappoint and will be great for other dystopian lovers!
23 out of 28 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 3, 2011
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I read this book and found it slightly boring. The whole plot never really caught my attention and it was very anti-climatic. The book never kept me too interested. I did like this book and the characters, but I find that there are other books I'd rather read.
7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 15, 2011
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This is an AMAZING book! At first it was simply very strange, and when I read Anya's words as she narrates her story I thought to myself, "hmmmm....I don't know if I can believe these are the thoughts of a 16 year old". Then you realize she has internalized everything her deceased father ever told her and that she draws comfort from his adages and parrots them even if she doesn't fully understand them yet. It's her trust in her father's love and past guidance that she leans on for support. We see her repeatedly quote him and return again and again to his words to her, no matter how small the advice. The problem is her father was a crime boss and his death has left Anya and her siblings in a precarious situation because of illegal chocolate connections. Chocolate is an illegal substance in 2083! (It's not so crazy/impossible if you think about it lol) Being so astute and practical, Anya thinks she has little use for typical teen luxuries like romance, dances, or even hobbies. Her free time is instead spent looking after her dying grandmother, her handicapped older brother and her younger sister. She puts all her effort and energy into making sure they are able to stay a family and not separated by child services. What's interesting is how the book takes place in a future time of 2083 and yet its problems are both contemporary and reminiscent of our history at the same time;the illegal status and bootlegging of chocolate have the vintage feel of the 20s and Prohibition era times. Anya does well keeping her head above water and in keeping her family's survival stable until the most unexpected happens: she falls in love. And not just with any boy, but with the D.A.'s son. He makes her feel what she never let herself feel before and this scares her like nothing else. Why? Because Anya needs always to have a clear head if she is to survive. But love is not logical and that is how her story turns even more interesting. I didn't know what this book was about when I started it but I loved it and very much looking forward to next in the series!
6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 22, 2012
Immediately I dug into the book and devour it. It was as addictive as chocolates themselves. Sadly I went away for eight months to Taiwan and never got around to reviewing it before it was published.
Now all that set aside , I just got to say that I love some of the promotional things they do with novels. The people or person that does them is both brilliant and hard working. I imagine for an author and others involve in the team it takes a lot of work to promote a novel. In this case: Coffee Covered chocolates with the main character's (whose the daughter of a dead mob boss) last name on it's package. Not only was it fun to dig into the book itself, but devouring the chocolates were also a yummy treat. So I just want to say thanks to Ksenia Winnicki @ Macmillan for sending this to me =D
I found this novel to be witty, charming and overall a great read.
It was easy to dive into the story.
There was many circumstances where I could not put the book down.
Zevin's did a amazing job with
characters. She made each and every one of her character stand out
and apart from each other.
Every person in the novel had their own little trait about them
(Natty; genius, Win;hats, Scarlett; theatre, Gable; Jerk ect;)
that set them apart.
The story flows flawlessly in first person. It was set in the big apple
one of my favourite places.
The originality of it was what peak my interest when it first
arrived and through out the entire novel.
Set in the future where chocolate is illegal.
Who would not want to read a story like that?
All These Things I've done is definitely a book I will be finding myself
read over and over again.
Especially since it set in NYC. After I received this novel in the mail I
actually went on a vacation in NYC.
So I got to see some of the many places that are actually talk about.
It was cool reading the novel while actually visiting the places
that the characters go to.
Annie devotion and love towards her family, even when sometimes
she went astray from that path, was mesmerizing and
beautiful. I thought the strong sense of family ties
and love (and how far you would go for them) was what made the
novel more strong.
The things Annie did and gave up for her family is what made her a
I felt heart broken every time she had to give up something up
(that she truly loved)
because of the situation she was in.
This novel, though intriguing at every point, was not a hard read. My
only complaint was that the ending did not seem satisfying enough.
It did not feel like a ending but more of a cut off point.
This September 2012 the sequel comes out, Because It is My Blood. I
am definitely looking forward to the second novel.
This is definitely a novel that readers should read or put on their tbr
3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 23, 2012
This is the weirdest book I've read in a long time, I could'nt see where this was going even after serveral chapters, I couldn'nt find an objective to the story.
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Posted July 21, 2012
I thought the book had an intresting premisis, where it was et in the futrue. i thought it was an intresting model of the futrue, with chocolate and coffee illegal. I also thought it was farely close to how we live now, making it relatable. I thought that Anya had depth to her and her conflictions and thought the book was fun and a good read.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 8, 2012
This book blew me away! I absolutely loved it and Gabrielle Zevin did an amazing job with Anya. Anya so different from the normal teenage protagonist, she's strong and runs their little family since their fathers awful murder. She's doing a good job until the son of the new assistant district attorney comes to school and someone is sabotages the chocolate supply Anya gives her ex and everyone thinks she's responsible. As the district attorneys closes in and their grandma's condition worse Anya fights to keep there little family together and out of the illegal business dealings of the mob family.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 22, 2011
Heart-wrenching and heart-warming, All These Things I've Done is an amazing addition young-adult literature. A promising, strong heroine, a unique plot, and characters you'll feel for - Gabrielle Zevin's latest has it all.
Anya Balanchine is a character we can all connect to. A young girl just as flawed as the rest of us, but stronger and tortured in a way you can never expect. With her mother and father murdered, Anya has to take care of her family. But she isn't the oldest. Her older brother, handsome Leo, is disabled, her grandmother hangs on to life by a thin thread.
As the oldest of four siblings, I know how it is to be responsible. But without my parents, I would most likely be in an asylum. Anya is different. Strong, flawed, no doubt, but strong and willed.
Though this novel certainly isn't one for fast-paced action, the story is astounding. The pages will be wet with your sweat, and maybe even your tears. I never knew which way the story would turn, but I could tell there was only pain and sorrow in Anya's life.
All These Things I've Done is a novel I have to say I loved. With a strong female protagonist and a life of mafia, Gabrielle Zevin's latest is a riveting must read.
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Posted December 15, 2012
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Posted July 6, 2013
This book was so great, the concept was borderline genius i really enjoyed it but at the same time i wish the author was more thorough about why chocolate was SO illegal. Because in some parts it seemed like chocolate was very illegal and in some parts it was like it was just really minor offense.. I mean it has to be pretty illegal if its the main contraband besides possibly coffee that made the Balanchine family rich and powerful and so hated by the police and public and that is emphasized in the book and then they charged Anya with possession of the chocolate and she explained how it was just a very minor offense. I just think that coulve been explain better.
And another thing was i understanding right that it was implied that the Balanchine family WAS (before chocolate was deemed illegal) owners of a chocolate manufacturing and instead of closing down after it was deemed illegal they instead choose to illegally distribute it ? And coffee is illegal because its a type of drug and its addictive but then why was Gable acting drunk in the first chapter, last time i checked you cant get drunk off caffeine but maybe its just because its just the way the author wanted it. Also why would they dress vintage? The author explained it as being because they stopped making new clothes but if that where the case wouldnt the vintage style of dressing be lost by that time in the future like how its lost now and instead they wore clothes like ours (2013)? Im judging this by her Nanas(who was born in 1995) explanation and description. It would make more sense if they wore clothes like how we do now. But that again must be what the author wants. Im just saying some things arent solid but the book itself was great and the concept., I LOVE the concept Mafya familys that instead of distributing illegal drugs they were distributing illegal chocolate and coffee, its such a cute storyline!
Posted January 12, 2013
Posted December 11, 2012
I would not really put this book in the dystopia category. Yes it’s got some sort of elements (the shortage of paper, chocolate and coffee being illegal, etc) but it just seems like everyone’s putting everything in dystopia when it shouldn’t be because it’s all the rage. What got me to really liking this book was Anya as a character. She’s basically on her own taking care of her family, at the same time managing to run parts of the mafia underworld and going to school. That’s a lot on her plate and she manages to do it quite well. It’s that strength that she’s got that really got me liking her, she’s very down to earth and manages to maintain a wry sense of humor as well. The characters overall in the story are pretty good. I liked Scarlet a lot, didn’t care for her choice of boyfriend though (he’s a LOSER and a JERK I don’t care what happened to him, I did not like his past actions with Anya). The romance with Win and Anya, I really didn’t care too much for. It just seems to be so, overdone and cliched. (Surprise surprise, mafia girl goes for.. *gasp* the DA’s Son...riiiiighhhttt....) The plot is a slow pace, so it may not be for everyone. World building isn’t a great emphasis here, so you don’t really know why chocolate and caffeine are illegal. (Which may irk a few). I didn’t mind the plot despite the pace, there were times when I thought it should have gone quicker, despite the slow start and momentum, the plot is decent and the ending leaves you satisfied (at least for me it did) Looking forward to book two! I really liked the mafia spin on this book and am looking forward to more!
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Posted November 14, 2012