In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.
I've seen this book floating around the bloggerverse since last year and was salivating to get a copy of it so when I saw at a blogger event at Macmillan there was no way I was going to leave without a copy. The pile on the table called my name. I think I may have even leapt on the books. So if that's anything to go by I think you can tell I was pretty keen to read this.
The story had a great hook that even in a sea of dystopian fiction that is swapping the YA market made me want to pick it up. The idea of a world where chocolate and coffee are not only illegal substances but are near enough wiped out because of it appealed to me in a big way. I live on coffee (no lie; I have about 6 cups a day at least) and i work in a chocolate shop so if I lived in this world then not only would I suffer physically without coffee but I'd have no job. SUCKFEST.
The main part of the story that I really liked was the fact that the female lead seemed to be a real and strong female character to me. She had a strange and harsh life coming from a family of criminals and mafia like clans and witnessing murder and other deaths from an early age and close up but she's trying to be the solid rock for her siblings. She's attracted to the new boy, Win, who's father is the new DA and is basically the opposite in power to Anya's dead father. Their lives are both so closely united but at the same time miles apart so when they begin to find themselves in the middle of a romance that they didn't intend to have they can't help but fight against their heads to please their hearts.
With a dash of gangster chic this tale of Romeo and Juliet esque romance made me feel all gooey and warm mainly because the romance wasn't so in your face. It creeps up on you slowly and you suddenly realise it's there and it's not so bad. The universe this story is built up in is wonderfully visual and makes the most of all your senses as you are sucked into the smell of the coffee that lingers in the walls all the taste of the forbidden chocolate. The grime of a once prosperous city have coated the city and there is desperation in the air. When there is desperation there is also a chance for money to be made and so enters the 'families' with their connections and low morals out to make a profit.
With a smart mix of the futuristic world and hits of the past which is very much the present for us it plays upon old and new and makes a world that you both know and remember while exploring the new. The family dynamic was so interesting as it's a real mix of ages and power struggle and as we find out more and more about each characters past you start to understand what they've had to survive to this point. My heart went out for Anya so much who had to not only care for her younger sister but also her older brother who survived a car accident when he was younger and now has a mental age of his younger self rather than the grown man he is physically. It's a lot to have on young shoulders but she takes it all on as well as the law, her unruly mafia family and as things begin to unravel in her life she clings to the normalcy she longs for with Win. A normal teenage romance.
Tense storytelling and striking characters. An impactful futuristic romance with a Mafioso edge.
Published by Macmillan Children's Books and is available from here and bookshops from April 2012