Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Farrar,Straus and Giroux/Macmillan
Release Date: 9-6-11
Since the death of her crime boss father, Anya has been the caretaker for her dying grandmother, her mentally handicapped brother and younger sister all while navigating life as a teen in a world where chocolate is illegal and even the most basic resources are carefully rationed. After trying so hard to stay under the radar, Anya finds herself in the spotlight for some tainted chocolate and her relationship with the DA’s son. It’s now a balancing act between keeping her mafia family happy and keeping those she loves out of their reach.
Gabrielle Zevin creates story set in the year 2083 in a world that struggles to maintain the standard of living that we know now. The set-up of this future New York is created through the narrator’s casual mention of 90 second showers, severely rationed paper, postage on emails and, of course, illegal chocolate. Anya is trying very hard to be a normal teen rather than the orphaned daughter of a notorious crime boss, but that kind of legacy is hard to escape. To her teachers and peers, she is the mobster’s daughter but to her extended family, she is not mobster enough. Her brother, who is legally an adult, remains a child developmentally due to an accident and her sister relies on Anya for the motherly support she misses. Anya’s grandmother gives her emotional strength, when she is lucid, and all of this chaos makes up Anya’s every day existence In the gray area where Anya lives, she is really just trying to survive, keep her family together and live a normal life.
As with all books or movies about crime families there is a dual morality that exists. On one hand, they are doing things that are illegal. On the other hand, they are loyal and caring, in their way. I think this is what appealed to me about this subject matter; Anya is a teenager with teenage wants and wishes, but she is also placed in very adult situations with a lot of responsibilities and the (figurative) ghost of her father is always there. Anya is a wonderful protagonist that you will admire and feel sorry for, especially as she makes some very grown up and painful decisions. She so badly wants to forget everything and be a teenager, but she is stoic in her acceptance of the adult responsibility she cannot escape. Her strength and inner vulnerability makes her very appealing as a protagonist. Anya’s perspective as the narrator is hilariously sardonic and the friends that surround her are loyal and endearing. I loved this book and the complexity of the characters that are in it.