Goodreads: All These Things I’ve Done, the first novel in the Birthright series, introduced us to timeless heroine Anya Balanchine, a plucky sixteen year old with the heart of a girl and the responsibilities of a grown woman. Now eighteen, life has been more bitter than sweet for Anya. She has lost her parents and her grandmother, and has spent the better part of her high school years in trouble with the law. Perhaps hardest of all, her decision to open a nightclub with her old nemesis Charles Delacroix has cost Anya her relationship with Win.
Still, it is Anya’s nature to soldier on. She puts the loss of Win behind her and focuses on her work. Against the odds, the nightclub becomes an enormous success, and Anya feels like she is on her way and that nothing will ever go wrong for her again. But after a terrible misjudgment leaves Anya fighting for her life, she is forced to reckon with her choices and to let people help her for the first time in her life.
In the Age of Love and Chocolate is the story of growing up and learning what love really is. It showcases the best of Gabrielle Zevin’s writing for young adults: the intricate characterization of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and the big-heartedness of Elsewhere. It will make you remember why you loved her writing in the first place.
“Besides, I did not require heroism--I had been the hero of my own life for some time.”
"I had always tried to be a good girl, and until that night, it had never occurred to me that some people you kissed wouldn't become your boyfriend and that this was, in fact, perfectly fine. Maybe even desirable.”
Once again, this is clearly going to have spoilers for all three books. Warning served!
I've had a lot of time to think about this book since I read it (procrastination is sometimes quite helpful!), and while at first I thought it was only a pretty good book, I might have to change my opinion of that. It might not be as fun as the first book is, but it feels true in a way I'm not used to sci-fi/fantasy feeling. Yes, it's set in the future and a lot of crazy things happen, but it's also one of the most realistic books I've ever read. This is similar to a dystopia in that it is set in the future, and the future sucks. But unlike almost every other heroine in this setting, Anya doesn't overthrow the government. She changes stupid laws by working her ass off and moving through loopholes. Again, I just think that THIS is how things happen. If this is how our world works 80 years from now, that's how you change it. Everything, even down to the Theo situation felt like the way life works. Speaking of...how can you not love a guy who says this:
"That's how you have to be when you farm cacao. Cacao is a demanding plant, as you well know. Too much water, there is mold. Too little water, she dries out and dies. You cannot simply shower her with affection either. She needs to be left alone sometimes to grow. If you make it too easy for her, she won't provide a strong crop. Sometimes, you do everything right and she still is not satisfied. You remind yourself not to have hurt feelings -- for that is just how she is. But she is worth the effort -- I tell you, Anya, she is. Get everything right and you are rewarded with an uncommon sweetness, a rich flavor that you can't find anywhere else. Growing cacao has made me relentless, as you say, but also patient and deliberate. Everything worth loving is difficult."
But this is not about Theo and how I felt about that, or even about how I felt about Yuri (read: I still don't understand why it was the worst decision she ever made. I thought it was a pretty awesome one actually.) A lot of it is how she and Win finally came back together. I loved that they both grew up a lot as people. Most importantly, I loved that Anya did not compromise who she was as a person to continue a relationship with Win. YES YES YES YES!!! That!! That needs to be in more YA books! I'm all about love, but sometimes we need reminding as teens (or in my case 20s) that there is more to life. Don't give up and give in for one person if it means sacrificing yourself. ESPECIALLY THAT LAST PART.
This book forces Anya to become completely dependent on people for the first time in almost her entire life. Shannon's comments at the bottom of my previous post really address why that is such an amazing thing. And Win grows up and realizes that Anya was right to do what she did. And he made me fall in love with him all over again (sorry Theo). BUT I wasn't planning on reviewing the book (even though I kind of just did), so on to what I originally wanted to talk about!
First, let me address the issue that is Scarlet. Scarlet has been a dwindling force throughout the last two books and her friendship (and personality) was a huge force in attracting me to these books in the first place. Her friendship with Anya is one of the best examples of female friendships I've seen in YA. I talk a lot about this in my first post about this trilogy, so you can head over there to see me wax lyrical on why they are so perfect together and why Scarlet is seriously the best.
In the second book, Scarlet's absence makes a lot of sense as a huge portion of the book is spent in Mexico, ergo no Scarlet. Towards the end of the book when Anya returns to New York, you get a lot of fighting between the two of them and you start seeing the downsides to Scarlet's personality. Her optimism and belief in everyone gets her in trouble, and Anya sort of gives up on her. Which I think is a shame as Scarlet stuck with Anya even after Anya wasn't being so great herself. Of course they patch things up..but then Scarlet gets pregnant. And that changes a lot of things. Scarlet doesn't have time to see Anya because she's dealing with family drama and taking care of her child. They go months without seeing each other and it seems like their friendship is irreparably changed. It felt like Anya didn't really miss Scarlet most of the time - she wasn't more than a passing thought. And I felt like Anya, while overly independent and self reliant, would still have missed Scarlet's role in her life. Honestly I can't criticize their distance much because that's just how life happens. BUT since this is fiction I wish Zevin had found a way around it, because I missed Scarlet.
And then there's Charles Delacroix. He goes from being one of the main villains in the series to being an integral part of Anya's life and well being. He and Anya are so similar in so many ways and you don't really (or I didn't) make that connection until this book. They are very obstinate, private, independent people. They continue to pretend to dislike each other or feign indifference well beyond when they've become more than friends even - they've become a family. I could go on and on about how their relationship really formed who Anya as became as an adult, but instead I'm going to show you the exact moment I truly loved Charles Delacroix.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. "Don't go this way," Mr. Delacroix said. "I know exactly what you're thinking. I know you so well. I know exactly what thoughts turn behind that opaque visage of yours. You've ben abandoned so many times. You think if our business relationship ends, that we will not be in each other's lives anymore. But we will. You are my friend. You are as dear to me as my own flesh and blood, and as improbable as this is, I love you like my daughter."