All These Things I've Done (Birthright, book 1)
By Gabrielle Zevin, read by Ilyana Kadushin
Published 2011 by Macmillan Audio
In the year 2083, New York is a very different place. Caffeine and chocolate are illegal, paper is in short supply, and water is rationed. Anya Balanchine, daughter of a notorious crime boss (who is now deceased), finds her world turned upside-down when she is caught up in a scandal. She must figure out who is behind it all in order to keep surviving and protecting her siblings.
Ugh. So, I have basically no time to write this blog, meaning that I don't end up posting things sometimes until months after they've happened or I've read them. This is definitely a review I wish I'd written right after finishing the book. However, this book was so disappointing that I'm still pretty fired up about it. Let's start with expectations: for this book, very high. I mean, in what crazy world would chocolate be illegal? I was definitely interested to discover this world that Zevin had created. Plus, daughter of a crime boss, accused on poisoning her jerk of a boyfriend? Also sounds really cool. So, I downloaded the audiobook when I saw it was available from the library and listened to it with high hopes.
The book starts out okay - I'm into figuring out what is going on in this world, as well as trying to understand the crime family workings. But it loses hope real fast. There is not really a good explanation for why the world is like this now and how everything became so corrupted. I can overlook some shoddy world-building if I'm interested enough in the story and, in this case, I was willing to let it slide. Additionally, the crime family and corruption aspect becomes secondary to Anya's personal drama, which is pretty disappointing. But then, something began happening that I just couldn't abide. I will say that I did listen to the entire book because I was curious enough to find out what would happen, so I guess the book has that going for it. But the thing I couldn't abide is kind of a really big deal, especially in a young adult book. And, I know I'm not the only person to notice this because I've seen some other reviews mention it.
Here's the thing: this is probably the worst case of slut-shaming I've seen in recent young adult literature. Anya is a self-admitted good girl. That's fine; that's your choice. But when every mention of sex before marriage is almost immediately followed by some reference to hell or damnation, I'm no longer willing to let it just be your choice. Now, in a book that is geared toward an audience full of young women who are already taught by nearly every outlet to be ashamed of their own sexuality, you're introducing another book with a heroine who believes she should be punished if she feels desire and believes that she will deserve that punishment. This is not okay. This makes a book that, though it has its other problems, could have been a decently engaging read into a book that I'm really angry about.
I'm incredibly disappointed with this book. It had a promising premise and beginning but soon derailed into territory that I couldn't stand.