Book Review: All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Series: All These Things I’ve Done, #1
Publication Date: September 6th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Rating: |

Summary: 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 accidentally 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.

Review Overview:

  • Wonderful futuristic New York City setting
  • Love the concept of illegal caffeine and chocolate and its ties to the Prohibition era in the 1920s
  • Writing lacked suspense so the novel felt a bit anti-climactic

In the near future of 2083, chocolate and caffeine are illegal in the United States. When you’re Anya Balanchine, life is hard when you’re the daughter of a dead crime boss who was once the head of the illegal family chocolate operations. Mix in a tale of star-crossed lovers and you have a recipe for a bitter sweet story.

I stumbled upon this book at BEA knowing next to nothing about it. All I knew is that when I read the description, I was so glad to have picked it up. I’m a bit hesitant to label this one as a dystopian novel mostly because of the lack of power that the government seems to have in this book. Sure they are the reason why chocolate and caffeine is illegal, but to me, the power really lies with the organized crime mobs. I feel like they are the ones that make the shots in this world and the government simply reacts to what happens as a result.

I love the concept of ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE. I’m drinking coffee as I write this review and I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have caffeine and chocolate to be both illegal. One, okay. But both? That’s just crazy. The idea is absurd which is why I love that Zevin makes connections to the Prohibition era of the 1920s very early on in the story. By establishing this connection, she makes her story more realistic for readers. If alcohol had been illegal in the past, what’s to say that it can’t happen to chocolate or caffeine?

Setting is one of the key reasons why I enjoyed ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE. I have a soft spot for books that are based in New York City and I love Zevin’s futuristic portrayal of the Big Apple. I love to read about an author’s perspective on how the city has changed due to different circumstances. I loved recognizing places based on the descriptions alone. You know an author’s a great writer when you can pinpoint a certain location without them having to say it straight out. Little Egypt was one of my favorite places in the book.

The story lacked suspense for me. I think it was the writing that didn’t quite keep me on the edge of my toes while I read. Sometimes, I felt like Anya was simply just telling me what happened instead of showing me. In addition to the lack of suspense, the romance was just okay for me. It wasn’t as epic as I thought it would be. Anya and Win were cute, but they aren’t going to be on my list of favorite couples any time soon.

As for the actual audiobook, I liked Ilyana Kadushin who read Zevin’s story. I wish she sounded a little younger, but overall I was very impressed with her performance throughout the book. Kadushin’s voice brings out the different personalities of the characters, and when she reads, it is possible to distinguish one character from another. Since I had actually already read the story, it was a lot easier to follow the audiobook. I usually have a hard time concentrating on an audiobook, but I found this one surprisingly easy. On the downside, I did already know what was going to happen, so it wasn’t as suspenseful to listen to.

ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE is a decent start of a new series. I’m not exactly counting down the days for the next book, but I was highly entertained to see New York City in Zevin’s 2083.

Other Reviews:
Compulsive Reader
Good Books & Good Wine



  1. I just won an audiobook version, so I’m happy to hear the performance is done well. I really like the idea of the world, but I’m kinda bummed to hear the story lacks suspense and the romance didn’t work for you. I guess I’ll find out!

  2. I thought this was an interesting blog. Ironically, I was sipping a cup of Joe while reading, so I cringed at the thought of it being illegal. I also enjoy reading stories that take place in the Big Apple. After living here my whole life, I can vividly picture the scene of a story as if I’m there. So 2083? What will they replace all the Starbucks with?

    1. Based on the state of the economy in the book, I’d bet that they’re just shut down. It’s definitely a scary thought!

    1. I haven’t read Life As We Knew It, but I have read – and loved – the Hunger Games. Ever since Hunger Games released, there has been an increasing number of “dystopian” fiction in the YA genre. For me, there hasn’t been a novel that has quite topped the Hunger Games. All These Things is not nearly as compelling, and it’s probably unfair to All These Things to compare it to a book like the Hunger Games.

  3. Fahrenheit 451 comes to mind after reading this post. Can’t help it, seeing how many of my favorite books are dystopian novels. I could not imagine coffee and chocolate being outlawed, especially since the former forms an important part of a college student’s nutritional regimen(or at least mine). Looking forward to more posts.

  4. I have heard so much about this book recently, and I must admit the premise is really intriguing. Thank you for such a eloquent, honest review. :)
    I do think I am going to have to read this just so I can see a world where chocolate & coffee are illegal. That idea is just horrifying! :P

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