Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin is the second young adult futuristic thriller in the Birthright series (available September 18, 2012).
Since her release from Liberty Children’s Facility, Anya Balanchine is determined to follow the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, her criminal record and mafiya family are making it hard for her to do that. And when old friends return demanding that certain debts be paid, Anya is forced right back into the world that she had been seeking to escape. It’s a journey that will take her across the ocean to the birthplace of chocolate, where her resolve—and her heart—will be tested as never before.
Anya Balanchine is next in line to take control of Balanchine Chocolate. She has a few problems, though. Chocolate and coffee are illegal in 2083, so the family business isn’t exactly legit. She’s already spent time in prison, and she’s only seventeen years old.
The book opens when Anya is released from Liberty Children’s Facility, where she has been detained due to events in the first book. She returns home to find that fitting back into her old life is nearly impossible. Her brother has left the country, her little sister has grown, her school doesn’t want her back and, because of an agreement with the district attorney, she cannot have contact with her boyfriend—the DA’s son, Win. The matron asks her:
“. . . Are you sorry for your crimes?”
The answer to that was complicated. I did not regret the crime I had been charged with—having my father’s gun. I did not regret my actual crime either—shooting Jacks after he shot Win. And I did not regret the deal I had made with Charles Delacroix that had insured both my siblings’ safety. I regretted nothing. Of course, I could sense that saying this would have been frowned upon. “Yes,” I replied, “I’m very sorry.”
Anya must decide who she can trust. Is the cousin who confessed to poisoning the chocolate really responsible? Who is trying to hurt Anya and her siblings? Do her lawyers have her best interest at heart? Can she forget about Win? Should she walk away from the family business or is it her birthright to embrace the illegal enterprise?
More immediate questions take precedence. Anya needs to finish school, but who will admit a girl with a criminal past? Day to day survival for herself, her sister and their caretaker also falls to Anya. Shortages and rationing make life difficult, even for rich mafiya families.
I lucked out and was able to get everything but the fruit and the pasta at the first chemicals stand I visited. I found a pasta vendor a couple of rows down, and he gave me a good deal on penne after I threw in a meat ration coupon and a bar of chocolate. I traded a woman selling flowers two chocolate bars for a bouquet of roses—it was extravagant but I longed for something sweet-smelling and colorful after the summer I had had. The only thing left was the fruit. I’d just about given up on getting anything except the canned stuff when I spotted a sign that read: Jane’s Citrus Oranges Grown Right Here in Manhattan.
Circumstances, and perhaps enemies, conspire to force Anya back to Liberty for parole violations. She’s traded chocolate, drunk coffee, and been photographed holding Win’s hand. Charles Delacroix visits her right after her arrest.
“No, Anya. It’s only the beginning. They will wait for you every day after school. They will try to get pictures of you in class. Your peers, because they are young and thoughtless, will find ways to provide them. Win won’t even have to be holding your hand for them to run this same story. He can be standing near you. He can be reported to be in the same building as you. This picture is a game changer, don’t you see?
Instead of being a dead end, Anya’s incarceration sends her on an odyssey. She will question the meaning of family, struggle with her faith and wonder if her future has already been written for her.
I thought I might have trouble following the story since I did not read the first book in the series. In the very beginning, I did feel a little lost. But Gabrielle Zevin seemed to anticipate my biggest questions and dropped in snippets of backstory just in time.
The cliffhanger ending sets up the next installment nicely. I look forward to seeing how Anya’s plans turn out. But before that, I’m getting a copy of the first book so I have the whole story.
Debbie Meldrum reads just about everything she can get her hands on. She was the short fiction editor for Apollo’s Lyre and the Editor in Chief of the Pikes Peak Writers NewsMag. She’s currently putting the finishing touches on her first novel. You can follow her progress on Twitter at @debmeldrum.