Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: YA, dystopian, coming of age
Publication Date: September 18, 2012 (FSGFYR/Macmillan – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: “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.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – absolutely AWESOME. I need that next book now!
Review: I’ll start off the review by saying that I love this world, these characters, and this series. I really hope this isn’t the last book within it. “Because It Is My Blood” is not for the dystopian crowd that demands constant action and ridiculous love triangles, but instead, I’d say it’s a quieter, sneakier, and more thoughtful book than many of the YA dystopian books out there at the moment. This one will sneak up on you when you least expect it and hit you right in the feels. There was so much in this one I wasn’t expecting, and it was a pleasant surprise. If you’ve read the first book, you simply must continue your journey with Anya in “Because It Is My Blood”.
I do feel like the beginning could have been shortened a bit (not entirely cut – Anya coming back from Liberty and seeing what the situation is with her family, Win, and the others is pretty important), and the escape to Mexico could have been brought in a bit earlier. Either way, I was still sucked very quickly back into Anya’s messy world of crime and chocolate, and it was still a pleasure to get myself reacquainted with all of these characters.
I’d say that this book explores some of the main cast a little more – we see more of Yuji (and his possible intentions), Sophia, and we make new friends with a rather one-sided love interest, Theo, and his family. It was really refreshing to see Anya having to really defend herself and her family, and make some serious sacrifices that we didn’t get to see in book one, and I feel like she grew hugely as a main character in this book. I feel like in the character development department and the worldbuilding department, Zevin definitely grew by leaps and bounds, and it was generally just a pleasure to read.
It was also reassuring and awesome to see that Zevin still isn’t afraid to kill her darlings (I won’t spoil anything, but wow, right about midway? Hit me right in the feels) in order to get her targeted emotional payoff. We don’t know who to suspect in this book – it seems like everyone is out to get Anya and her siblings before they can ascend the Balanchine crime throne and rule in the world chocolate market, and it was woven so intricately and thoroughly that I didn’t see very much coming, and when it all happened, it really hit me hard. I love writers who can do that, keep a quick pace, but also keep all of the delicate details at the same time, and in this book, Zevin proved she is one of those writers.
The worldbuilding expands in this book quite well – we get to see Mexico, and we also get a glimpse of this future world where chocolate is not banned worldwide, but the matter is rather complicated within the world economy as a whole because the US banned it. As a result there’s a lot of infighting, a lot of delicate details that were woven into Anya’s time at Theo’s farm, and I feel like the world just grew very naturally, unfurled when it was ripe like the cacao pods that Anya helped harvest.
As for the kind-of love triangle, I’d say that it isn’t – Win has appeared to have moved on, and Theo has a really one-sided love for Anya – one she doesn’t really return for him. I love the ambiguity that we’re left with on the final page, and whether or not Anya and Win will ever get back together…well, let’s just say I want that third book (if it is coming at all), stat, so I can find out. However, the lack of love triangle was really a relief.
Also, the sort-of metaphor for chocolate being equivalent to marijuana the way it is now with medical dispensaries at the end? GENIUS. And I want to know more.
Final verdict? I loved pretty much all of this book, and I definitely want/demand a third. Absolutely gorgeous and at times brutal, at times tender, “Because It Is My Blood” is a wonderful, worthy successor to “All These Things I’ve Done”. If you’ve read book one, you simply must read book two. “Because It Is My Blood” is out now from Macmillan in North America, so be sure to check it out!