Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: September 6th, 2011
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.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)
Okay folks, if you are an old follower, you know that I love Gabrielle Zevin. Her 1st YA book, Elsewhere, is one of my favorite books ever. I also loved Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, so when I heard about this one, I was, of course, ecstatic! This book was definitely one of my most anticipated books of 2011, as evidenced by THIS WoW Post from back in May. I was so thrilled when Macmillan Audio contacted me to review it; I am a big audio listener because I spend a lot of time running carpool for my kids. I did read it before listening to it because sometimes I don't get a book as well from the audio and given my love for Zevin's books, I really wanted to give it a fair shake. I can happily report that the pre-read was not necessary; the audio version was FANTASTIC!
This book was read by a young lady named Ilyana Kadushin and let me tell you, Macmillan did a fabulous job casting this reader. The story is told in the first person, and if the wrong reader had been cast, it would have been disastrous. This reader was so good. I really believed Anya (the protagonist) was telling the story. I have listened to dozens of audiobooks read in the first person, and this was one of the best yet. I think it must be very difficult to become the character; film and stage actors can use body language and facial expression to enhance their portrayal of a character; audiobook narrators have to rely on voice alone. Ilyana Kadushin did a fabulous job and I believe I got MORE out of listening to this than reading it.
As for the story, AWESOME! I won't be able to give a very in depth review without spoilers, but I will say that this book is a winner. Anya doesn't have it easy. She has a load to shoulder that no teenage girl should ever have to shoulder, but she does it with great integrity and maturity. She is judged by just about everyone for who her dead father was and what her last name still is. She has huge familial obligations that have nothing to do with the crime family her name makes her a part of. She has to make very tough decisions about the people she loves and would love, her commitment to her faith, her commitment to her family and friends, and how those things fit with honoring herself.
This story is packed with emotion, but also suspense and intrigue. As hard as Anya tries to do what's best for everyone, things do not always go her way; in fact, they rarely go her way. I can't wait for the second book of this series because I want to know Anya better, and I really NEED to know what happens next in her very interesting life.
Bravo to Gabrielle Zevin for once again knocking it out of the park! It takes a brilliant author to be able to write several different books and not have any of them be even close to similar. My opinion of her has gotten even better, and I didn't think it possible!
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Grade Level Recommendation: There is some mild violence, a couple of instances of almost sex, and a few swears. Nothing I would consider inappropriate for a middle schooler. Ages 12 and up. (6th grade+).