2014 EVENTS:
Holly Bourne, Non Pratt and James Dawson - 30th October
Becca Fitzpatrick - 15th November

Friday, 21 February 2014

REVIEW: Because It Is My Blood - Gabrielle Zevin

Friday, 21 February 2014
GENRE: Dystopia
PAGES: 368
PUBLISHER: Pan Macmillan
BUY IT: Waterstones
RATING: 5 Stars

Freed from jail, Anya hopes that things will get back to normal. But life on the outside is even more dangerous than life behind bars. Some of her gangland family want revenge for the crime for which she has done time: the shooting of her uncle. Forced to flee the country, Anya hides out in a cacao plantation in Mexico. There she learns the secrets of the chocolate trade, a trade that is illegal and deadly in her native New York. There too she discovers that seemingly random acts of violence carried out across the world have a single target: her family. As innocent bystanders get caught in the crossfire Anya must act fast and decisively to stop it, no matter what the danger to herself.

When Anya is finally released from Liberty, she finds that life on the outside is still as difficult as ever. Win's dad is still running for office and her mortal enemy so her boyfriend is off limits, her Catholic school won't have her back, and all she wants to do is graduate like a normal teenager. Nothing ever runs smoothly.

This, the second book, doesn't necessarily ease you in slowly. I like that it doesn't use the first chapters to recap everything that happens in the last book but you can still pick up on the important threads if you don't remember. I had missed Anya's voice a lot - she's probably my favourite character in any book. She's still strong and admirable, but she's funny too and I really aspire to be like her. She does what she has to in difficult circumstances but is also willing to deal with the consequences too. I hate quite a lot of female narrators in YA books, they can be so superficial or underdeveloped in terms of character - either completely weak to boys or think they are so ugly when every man falls at their feet. I despise this. So it came as a pleasant surprise when Anya decides to stay away from Win. Don't get me wrong, I adore their little relationship, but Anya is so much more realistic about things and knows that she and Win are both young and might decide to go their own ways one day. She's also clear about the fact that even though she cares deeply about him, she's not willing to put him before her family. She is so far from being stupid.

Anya is such a positive person. Despite everything she has so much hope. Because It Is My Blood sees her develop so much as her own person and gradually move away from depending on her father's half-remembered advice. She's such a fantastic role model and I can't praise her enough. She's selfless without being unrealistic and I totally understand her. There is something about Anya that is also really sad; she loses so much in her life despite her desperate attempts to hold everything together but she never lets it break her more than it should.

Again, this book features heavily on Anya's relationship with her dysfunctional 'mob' family, but no matter how much they all favour tradition, Anya begins to realise that it's her relationship's with those who are actually close to her (mostly her best friends) and not necessarily those she related to by blood that are the most important people in her life. Just because you have blood in common it doesn't mean they won't stab you in the back. This is an important move for Anya - she has always protected her family no matter what, but now she begins to see things for what they are.

As part of her way to avoid being pulled back to Liberty, Anya escapes to Mexico. I really liked that this changed the cultural focus from Russian. It brought a fresh flavour and perspective, and the move of scene made the narrative more interesting and gave Anya's character room to grow without being influenced by her family. It was nice to see Anya make a friend in Theo that doesn't have any connection to her life back home.

Apart from Anya, who's motives are clear because of the first person narrative, no other character is who you think they are. There are 'whodunnits' aplenty in this book. In fact, there is always something that leaves you on a bit of a cliffhanger just when you think Anya is getting to her feet again - Zevin knows exactly when to put the action in. As the plot develops you realise that the first book, All These Things I've Done, sets the scene and the actions, whereas this follows and explores the extremes of her consequences. 

There's so much to say about this book, and even this series. As much as I can't wait for the last book I desperately don't want it to end. This series has given me so much - it's exciting, heartbreaking, thrilling and romantic. I love Anya and I love this series. Read it people.

- Bex.

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