This is the first book in a new dystopian science fiction series by the author of Elsewhere. In the year 2083, the United States are in a darker time. Coffee and chocolate are illegal, water is rationed, phone calls are very expensive, and paper books are antiques. Anya Balanchine lives with her grandmother who is kept alive with machines, her older brother and her younger sister. She is the daughter of New York’s most powerful mob boss, who unfortunately was killed years earlier right in front of Anya and her sister. Her mother is dead too, murdered in her car which is how her older brother received his brain injury. But Anya is determined to stay clear of her family’s connections and have a real life. Yet everything comes back to chocolate, crime and family, and what Anya will have to do to protect the people she loves.
Zevin has created a book that takes place in a dystopian world. While she gives lots of details about that world and about New York City as a decaying giant, the focus is on Anya, her family and her friends. The book has such focus and is so well written, readers won’t miss the larger world being explained. Instead this is about an insular world inside of a dystopian setting. The focus is powerful, creating a gripping reading experience.
In Anya, Zevin has created a protagonist who is razor sharp, very tough, yet melts like chocolate too. The romance in this book is beautifully built. It reads as real, poignant, and star-crossed. Anya is a young woman carrying far more than her share of the weight of the world. This first book in a series reads as a complete and satisfying story, yet as a reader I was thrilled to see it was only the beginning.
Get this into the hands of fans of Holly Black’s White Cat. The combination of mob and dystopian make this a thriller that is sure to surprise and delight. Appropriate for ages 15-17.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus & Giroux.
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