Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publication Date: 9/6/11
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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 accidently 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.
This book was a total air ball for me. The premise sounded so fun— a futuristic society with a Prohibition-era-type ban on chocolate,a black market run by mobster families, and a teenage heir to the family empire. MURDERS! POISONING! Boredom? Boredom. Oh, and tepid romance and a selfish MC. Imagine all the places this book could’ve gone. Yeah, that’s right, I’m thinking total badass teenage girl threatening her way across NYC and putting her dysfunctional family business back in order. (I mean, wouldn’t it be totally normal to have a Boondock Saints type situation in a YA book? No?) I enjoyed several of Zevin’s other books (Elsewhere, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac) but reading this book made me want to go back and reread them to see if they were read by delusional version of myself.
I found it rather annoying that the narrative would stop every once in a while for the narrator to speak to the reader. Dear reader, if you are reading this review, you might notice that it is mostly personal feelings about the book with absolutely no objectivity. See how annoying that is? Another thing: this book dragged. So many plot points just kept coming up, and up, and up, and WE FREAKING GOT IT ALREADY, ANYA. You don’t want your brother to work at the Pool. Check. You and Win really like each other but you shouldn’t be together. CHECK. You run the household because Leo can’t—we seriously got that point the first four times it was mentioned. (note: I was reading an ARC of this so perhaps the editor realized the repetition and remedied the situation before publication. *crosses fingers*)
The beginning of the book was promising. I went into it with the attitude that it was ridiculous to have chocolate be illegal and to have a black market for it. Funnily enough, I was on board rather quickly. The setup was fun and I was ready to see where the story would go. The answer? Basically nowhere. At one point in the story, Anya ends up in a detention center. I was evilly tapping my fingers together at the prospects. I don’t want to spoiler it but if you’ve been paying attention, I’m pretty sure you know what happens. (Answer: Um, not too much) Reading about the justice system was really frustrating--evidently in this future, due process rights are just tossed out the window. And the eeeending. At least there was no cliffhanger.
The thing about this book is that if it lost at least 70 pages, stopped repeating itself, and maintained a single narrator, I might’ve given it four stars. Anya was an annoying and self-centered character but there was potential there. I’m sorry to say that I don’t think I’m interested enough to read the next book in the series. Let me know what happens.