Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Writer's View - All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zavin

From Goodreads: 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.

The Writer's View

This was a really good book. Thanks to Felicia at Livin' Life Through Books for the the recommendation. It was on Felicia's top books of 2012. What really intrigued me was the concept of a society where chocolate was outlawed. I was anxious to get into the book and learn about this futurisitc, dystopian society.

What I really loved about this book was the main character, Anya. She's a sixteen-year-old girl who's been forced to grow up fast due to her father's illegal business selling chocolate. She lost both parents by the age of thirteen to assassinations. Her older brother was permanently brain damaged after a shoot-out that resulted in a car crash. Her grandmother, a dying woman confined to bedrest and kept alive through machines, is her guardian. Anya, though only a teenager, has no choice but to run her hosuehold, look after her older brother, her grandmother, and her little sister. She is a girl who has all the responsibilites of an adult. Zevin did an amazing job of creating a teen who thinks like an adult with responsibilities. Her own happiness always takes seconde place to the safety and happiness of her siblings. Her sacrifices and the choices she makes for the sake of the family form the meat of this story. I really found myself caring for Anya and agonizing over the choices she continually faces.

The Relevance of Setting

I metioned that what originally pulled me into this story was the premise of the setting. What's interesting to me is that I didn't find the setting all that important to the story. The essentialy elements of the story--the child of an assasinated mob boss struggles to take of her family and figure out life--could have just as easily been told in a contemporary setting.

What do you guys think of this? If a story isn't impacted by a setting--be it dystopian, fantasy, sci-fi, etc.--is there a compelling reason to place the story in that setting? Should the setting be important to the story being told?


  1. This book sounds awesome!! I see what you mean about setting. Certainly in most dystopians the setting is relevant. It all depends on what the writer wants to focus on as part of their story. In this instance it sounds like this book could have been set anywhere. Which makes me think that maybe it's part of a series and that later books will cover more of the setting? Although, I think I read somewhere that a good story should exist outside of a setting. It should be able to be transposed to any background and still be a good story.

  2. Ooo, the premise of the book sounds fantastic.

    Hmm, if the piece is contemporary, then I can overlook setting, but fantasy/science fiction/dystopian rely a lot of settings. It should be featured, I would think. Of course, characters and plot are probably much more important. :)

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed the book! I think I agree with Lan's point of view on this subject. It definitely depends on the writer and where they decide to go with the story. I wasn't really paying attention to the setting when I read this, but more on the fact of what was happening with Anya and her story. If you enjoyed this one, hopefully you'll like the sequel :)

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  5. I haven't read this one yet but I'm guessing the dystopian setting is because outlawing chocolate was just too fun a concept to resist.

  6. A world where chocolate is banned??!! *gasp*
    You make an interesting point about setting ... I think if you're going to go to the effort of creating a setting that is DIFFERENT in some way, then surely it should have some influence on the characters. Although I suppose it could just be there to create an interesting "backdrop" to the story. Hmm. For me as a reader, it's mainly about characters, so maybe it wouldn't really matter to me either way :-)

  7. I haven't read this one, though I have read Elsewhere and quite liked it.