Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (September 6, 2011)
Description: 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.
My Thoughts: This was an interesting and thought-provoking dystopia with a very well-drawn main character. Anya is the daughter of a chocolate mafioso. You see, chocolate and caffeine have been banned in the US in this future world. She was present, along with her younger sister, when her father was gunned down in their home. They had already lost their mother to a botched hit and had their older brother damaged in the accident such that he would never be mentally older than eight. Now the three kids are living with their dying grandmother. Anya is in charge and she is very bright and very responsible. She worries about both her brother and her sister.
When she falls for the new boy at school (or when he falls for her), she doesn't know that he is the son of the new assistant District Attorney who wants to clean up crime and make a name for himself. She tries Not to get involved with Win because she wants to keep a low profile until she is legally old enough to be the guardian for her younger sister but events make this impossible.
When her ex-boyfriend becomes ill after eating tainted chocolate, Anya is accused of his attempted murder. Getting her out of the juvenile detention system brings her to Win's father's attention. He makes a deal to help her in return for her breaking up with his son. Anya has to weigh the needs of her family with her heart -- and her heart can't win.
The world is well-drawn. It felt very realistic. The hardships of a world with shrinking resources were very clear. Anya's family dynamics were also well-done. She loves her dying grandmother but caring for her is hard. She loves her older brother and wants to shelter and protect him. She idolizes her dead father and frequently remembers things he said to her and uses them to guide her decisions. She tries very hard to be practical and pragmatic. She has had an adult's responsibilities since she was nine years old which makes her rather solemn and cynical.
Since the story is told in the first person, we don't get a chance to see Win from the inside. He is persistent in his pursuit of Anya. We hear from his father that he is soft and naive. But he is certainly steadfast in his support for Anya.
I enjoyed the story and thing readers who are fans of dystopias and romances would enjoy this one.
The theme of the dance was "Great Romances," or some such nonsense. There were projections of supposedly great couples from the past on the walls of the gym. Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Bonnie and Clyde, etc. I son't think any of them met a particularly good end, but I suspect this was an irony that entirely bypassed the event's organizers.I received the ARC for review. You can get your copy here.