Anya Balanchine: Mafia princess, chocolate company heiress, and street psychologist extraordinaire. The book All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin goes in depth with the life of Anya Balanchine and describes the tribulations this girl has to go to as a result of her surname. This novel was entertaining from start to finish and follows the, oh so beloved plot of forbidden romance.
While some of my peers found the characters in this book unrealistic I felt the exact opposite. Characters, like Anya’s forbidden love Win, were very likable. Even if the idea of a boy who buys you orchids and wont let you break up with him seems a little far-fetched it did make for a desirable thought. As for our leading lady, she was extremely intelligent and always took her late fathers teachings to heart. It seemed like every other sentence in this book was, “Daddy always said…” or “Daddy told me…” which did get a little monotonous, but made you realize how much of an influence her father had on her. Anya was also very relatable, when reading this book I even pictured myself as her, which may be a little vain but she did have black hair and blue eyes, just like myself. Even the characters that were not in the limelight for the entire novel still had interesting backgrounds. For example, there was Mouse; Anya’s cellmate who had an interesting backstory of murder, which they never did delve into entirely. No matter how important the character, all were well developed and unique in their own way.
All These Things I’ve done tosses us into a distant dystopian future, one that our children’s children might live in. In 2083 water is running out, chocolate is illegal, and citywide curfews are enforced. Anya is the daughter of the late mobster and chocolate tycoon Leo Balanchine. She is infamous for this and her reputation is reinforced by her angry fits, such as dumping lasagna on her ex boyfriend first day of school. After this she meets the charming Win Delacroix, her forbidden love throughout the book. Their classic love story is interrupted by Anya’s responsibilities; like taking care of her brother, Leo, sister, Natty, and grandmother/guardian. Most of these interruptions come from her brother’s sudden interest in the family business, especially his newfound relationship with their no good cousin Jacks. Anya’s skepticism for Jacks is reinforced at the end of the novel when he talks Leo into shooting a powerful relative. Leo is forced to flee the country, and just as he is escaping shot’s are fired. Jacks mistakes Win for Leo and shoot him twice in the leg. Anya quickly grabs her gun and shoots into the darkness at her relative. She lands the shot and Sends Jacks to prison. However this isn’t the happy ending it may seem. After putting Win’s life in danger she feels incredibly guilty. Win’s DA father agrees that it is all Anya’s fault, and as a punishment she is sent to prison for the summer of her junior year and is forced to break up with Win. But she still loves him, when he comes to visit her in jail she cant hide her feelings, “I leaned across the table and I grabbed his hair, what was left of it, and I kissed him hard on the mouth.”
While this book taught many lessons its main theme seemed to be that of identity. Who Anya was, was predetermined at birth. But she didn’t let that stop her from being who she wanted to be, a “good catholic girl”. Furthermore she didn’t let it define whom she could love, even if it was the district attorneys son. The headlines in the story put it best, “Star-Crossed Lovers? Bratva Princess and Asst. DA’s Son Find Love in the City.” She didn’t do what she was told and I admire her for that.
While there are those who might consider the elaborate characters in this story too fictitious I found them intriguing. Anyone looking for an entertaining and quick read should pick up Gabrielle Zevin’s, All These Things I’ve Done. It will leave you craving more insight into the life of Anya and Win, which you may find in the second installment in this series, Because it is My Blood. Hopefully, it will give us closure from this novel’s unanswered questions. No matter what it is sure to keep it’s readers on the edge of their seats and begging for more.