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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

Y'all, why was I thinking this came out October 18th instead of September 18th?! I've had this flipping thing written since June! (Oops)

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin
Amazon | Goodreads
368 pages
Expected publication: September 18th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in.”- Michael Corleone, The Godfather

Since her release from Liberty Children's Facility, Anya Balanchine is determined to follow the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, her criminal record is making it hard for her to do that. No high school wants her with a gun possession charge on her rap sheet. Plus, all the people in her life have moved on: Natty has skipped two grades at Holy Trinity, Scarlet and Gable seem closer than ever, and even Win is in a new relationship.But when old friends return demanding that certain debts be paid, Anya is thrown right back into the criminal world that she had been determined to escape. It’s a journey that will take her across the ocean and straight into the heart of the birthplace of chocolate where her resolve--and her heart--will be tested as never before.

After being told about Gabrielle Zevin for years (after having her relentlessly pushed on me by certain people, and 1 in particular, who shall remain Naughty Librarian Ashley nameless), and resisting for no apparent reason, I finally sat down to read something by her last year: All These Things I've Done, which, lo and behold, I loved.  Anya's cold-fish narration won over my blackened, shriveled little heart with ease. Needless to say, I was looking forward to book 2. (Even more so when info was released about it, because ohmysweettitleobsession, if that isn't a damn good title!)

I was hesitant, though. Of course I was. I'm ever-leery of the sophomore slump, and Anya's life has undergone some big changes in a very short time, which could mean the magic was going to be lost. But this was one of the rare cases of me liking a 2nd book just as much as the 1st, though for completely different reasons (which is also a good thing, because that means it's not just a regurgitation of book One). This was also an even rarer case of me liking something more after sitting with it for awhile than when I first finished. Anya is different in this, but understandably so. She's starting to lose a little bit of her cold-fish tendencies and put herself out there more. It's growth, and though I'll miss cold-Anya, it's good growth; she begins to move away from her Daddyisms (another of my favorite things from ATTID), even going so far as to question some of the things he told her, and question why she so blindly held to them rather than figuring things out for herself. She's still very long-suffering, but she's starting to grow out of that. She's becoming a little more ruthless and a little less afraid of being so (which pleases me); she understands and is embracing what being Anya Balanchine - being part of her Family (intentional capital F) - really means. By the end, she's not running anymore. (And this really pleases me.)

Because It Is My Blood finds Anya in Mexico, learning more about the chocolate trade, the history of the Prohibition, and just what it is her family does. I loved this new facet to the story - the detour to Mexico, the cast of Mexican characters*, Anya's growing familiarity with chocolate, all of it. It helps facilitate her growth and questioning, and it gives her some sense of purpose - a measure of self-understanding that she didn't quite possess before. The family/Family drama is still good, but it's less about that now, and more about Anya coming into her own. I mean,  family/Family drama is still a big a part of the plot, but the filter is even more through Anya, and making tough choices, growing up, letting go and standing strong. This aspect was there in ATTID but it wasn't fully realized because Anya wasn't ready yet. Now she is, and Zevin confronts things beautifully.

*I mean, Theo might be my favorite person of ever.

But not all of this book takes place in Mexico, as much as I love the expansion of the world and that little bit of escapism. Anya still has to deal with things (a LOT of things) at home, and I like how Zevin confronted these issues, too. I'm not going to lie, I'm still really mad at Scarlet and I STILL REALLY HATE Gable. [And honestly, I'm starting to not give a shit about Win...I like him, but more because of Anya's reactions to him - the slightly-tortured, definitely in love, but not willing to compromise who she is** aspect of their relationship is excellent, but as I said above: Theo might be my favorite person of ever.] But mostly, I REALLY loved where this went with Charles Delacroix. I don't want to risk spoiling anything, but it actually went where I was hoping it would go, and even though I was expecting it, it was still really nice to see it happen (but also unsettling). A lot of YA authors wouldn't have dared. And while we're being cryptic - the same is true with Kipling/Yuji, etc. Zevin didn't pull punches with the relationships, and they had me feeling all turmoily and anxious and FEELS.  I'm curious to see where things stand in the future with all of the characters/relations, as many are very open and very tenuous. But I loved the handling for now. It was very adult, very unforgiving, and yet another sign of Anya's development that I both liked and bought.

All in all, I liked the expansion of the world, and the better explanations of the chocolate/caffeine prohibiton, and I really liked Anya's conclusions/goals. I'm definitely curious to see where the series goes from here. Garbielle Zevin and her cold-fish-Anya have won me over. You win, Naughty Librarian Ashley world. You win.

**Do you know? Do you know how much I love this about her?!


  1. I just finished this book. It was soooo good! I really liked how Anna grew into her own person and away from the expectations of her father. I'm very curious about where the plot will go from here! :)

  2. OH MY FRICKEN GOD, my hands are going to be full with Macmillan books this weekend. Seriously, first I read my friend Anna's review of Crewel and was like HELLS YES. Then I read your review of BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD and am all HELLZ YES. I cannot wait to delve into this.

  3. I'm listening to this now, narrated by the wonderful Ilyana Kadushin. I'm really enjoying it, and now I'm interested to see what you're talking about!

  4. After reading ATTID, I'd imagined Anya would go to Japan in BIIMB. It appears she goes to Mexico - ok, fine with me, I want to find out what happens!

    As for Gabrielle Zevin previous books, I enjoyed Elsewhere (it's published as "adult fiction" in the Italian translation). I also found Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac very cute and a satisfactory read - but I know you tend to stay away from "cute" books, so I'd recommend you try it with caution.

  5. Wait, What..? A book about chocolate.. and caffeine.. and a badass girl?

    Why this isn't on my shelf is beyond me. Where would I be w/o you sharing these awesome titles, Misty?!

  6. Lily, April & Tahleen - Yay! I hope this book/series finds a broad audience, cause I love it. And I don't do many audiobooks, Tahleen, but if the narrator's good, I might have to re"read" this one on audio.

    Alessandra - I'm not necessarily opposed to cute, I just have to be in the right mood for it. And I do have this one (it was a Christmas present a couple years ago), so I will be picking it up at some point. Had no idea it was "cute" in any way, though, so thanks for the warning!

    Rachael - Ooh, hope you do read it! People tend to either really connect to it or really not, but I definitely did, and I love Anya. Eager for the next book. =)

  7. Oh, and I kinda thought she'd go to Japan too, Alessandra. It was actually a really pleasant shake-up in my expectations, and without giving anything away, I think it deepens the story and the intrigue...

  8. Love this book and series. Finally, a girl who is willing to push aside love to be who she is. Even though it was technically less action-y, I read this in one sitting and loved it. Very eager to see what will happen next.

  9. Isn't that great, Kristen? It's so refreshing, especially in YA, to have a female lead who doesn't fall to pieces, and who is uncompromising in who she is, even if that means being alone.


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