Young Jane Young: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle ZevinWhat if the worst mistake you ever made is the only thing anyone remembered about you?

Aviva Grossman never planned to have an affair with a married congressman. She certainly never planned to become the center of the scandal that might end his political career and definitely stops hers before it has a chance to start.

But a scandal doesn’t happen to just one person, or even two. It has a much wider orbit drawing others into the fallout.

Rachel Grossman doesn’t know what her daughter did or didn’t do. But she does know that Aviva’s heart is in the right place. She knows she wants to protect her daughter even if she has no idea how to do that when Aviva’s private life becomes front page news.

Jane Young always thought she could keep her head down, focus on raising her daughter Ruby, and everything would work out. She’s wrong, it turns out, and soon finds herself drawn into the Maine political scene as she runs for local office.

Ruby knows her mother is hiding something and she knows being thirteen isn’t as easy as her mom thinks. But she doesn’t know what to do about either of those things and hopes her online pen pal Fatima might be able to help.

Then there’s Embeth Levin. Embeth has built her life on being a congressman’s wife and cleaning up his messes. But who will be there to clean her up when things start to spin out?

Five women, lots of secrets, one scandal, and one way to move forward in Young Jane Young (2017) by Gabrielle Zevin.

Find it on Bookshop.

Young Jane Young is a story told in five parts–each focusing on one of the women above. Zevin plays with different narrative forms and styles to tease out a complicated story about feminism, identity, reputation and the dangerous moments when all three intersect.

The less you know about this story going in, the better. Part of the magic is the way in which Zevin weaves these five seemingly disconnected narratives together into one cohesive and powerful story about all the ways to be a woman when it feels like the entire world has an opinion on who you’re supposed to be.

Young Jane Young is as smart, funny, and incisive as the woman at the center of its story. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert, Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll, Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed, Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration at BookExpo 2017*

Author Interview (#3): Gabrielle Zevin on In the Age of Love and Chocolate

Gabrielle ZevinGabrielle Zevin’s Birthright series has been one of the rare series that I followed closely as it published. It also has a very special place in my heart for many reasons including my love for the series, fondness for the author, and the fact that these books saw me through some really difficult moments in my own life. I truly can’t overstate how special these books are.

Gabrielle is here today to talk about the final book in the trilogy, In the Age of Love and Chocolate, as well as the conclusion of the series in general.

***Because this interview focuses on the final book in a series, it may have some spoilers for books 1 and 2***

Miss Print (MP): This series has undergone a few changes since we last spoke about Because It Is My Blood and All These Things I’ve Done. Can you tell us anything about the decision to shift Birthright from a four book series to a trilogy?

Gabrielle Zevin (GZ): This isn’t a pretty answer, but I’ll give you a candid one. The decision to shift from four books to three was in part determined by the fact that the series hasn’t been as popular as my publisher (and I!) hoped it would be. I made the decision to shift to three books pretty much as soon as the first book came out in September 2011. The readership is passionate, but small, and seems to mainly consist of strong, loner types, not unlike Anya Balanchine herself. However, the events that were going to happen in In the Age of Love and Chocolate are very similar to my conception of book three even when it was a four book series. And book four, when there was going to be one, was always going to push the series in a different direction. I could at some point decide to write a book four if the fortunes changed for the series. However, and perhaps I should have led with this, I feel like Anya’s story is emotionally resolved by the end of the third book. She has learned what she needed to learn. She has “come of age.” And the first three books of the series, when taken together, are a bildungsroman. (Also, the sentence formed by the three titles can safely have a period.) What I feel about the three books as they stand is that they form the complete Anya Balanchine story. They form a novel about her, but there are perhaps loose ends left in the world (and the other characters of the world) that I could explore at a later time. On a side note, I almost wish I’d written all three books at once and had just published a standalone 1,000-page novel called Anya Balanchine.

MP: Working off the last question: In condensing a projected four book story arc into three did you end up losing scenes? How did you go about making this transition?

GZ: On some level, I think I was wrong to ever think this WAS a four book series. This series is about a character, not a world or a high concept premise. (I’ve probably said this about a million times since the first book came out, but it’s true.) This is about a character growing up and becoming a woman. In a way, even if the books had been wildly popular, publishing the fourth book wouldn’t make any sense for the publisher, because it would be an adult novel. I mean, YA novels don’t tend to be about characters in their 20s and 30s and beyond. (Frankly, the third book, in terms of its themes and storyline, is probably an adult novel already!) I would love to see Anya as a mother, as a widow, as a grandmother like Nana even. So, no, I didn’t particularly lose scenes because I had to rethink the whole thing. The ideas I lost don’t particularly feel like losses because they wouldn’t make sense in the series as it exists. But yes, you might for instance notice, that Anya and Win are on the verge of making a trip to Russia at the end of ITAOLAC – that was definitely something that was going to happen.

I keep circling around your question a bit. And I’m still not sure that I’ve answered it. Something I want to say is that Anya’s journey is not unlike mine in writing the series. She starts off thinking her life will be one way – recall that she wants to be a Crime Scene Investigator in book one! But life happens, and she learns to make the best of the situation she finds herself in. Perhaps, this is adulthood: getting some things and living without others.

MP: Over the years these books have also had a few title changes. In the Age of Love and Chocolate was initially going to be called In the Days of Death and Chocolate. What prompted the title change?

GZ: By the time I went to write the third book of the series, the first book had already come out, and the reception, as I already mentioned, had been somewhat disappointing. When I started writing the third book, I was in a dark place and that came through in every decision I made for Anya. In the Days of Death and Chocolate was filled with darkness and poison. I made a lot of decisions in it that were transgressive (and perhaps even interesting), but didn’t necessarily honor the characters or the foundation I’d built in the previous two books. I suppose I almost wanted to punish Anya. The original third book was almost out of copy editing when I began to have a recurring sense of anxiety. I dreamt of Anya and began to fantasize that I was seeing her places. I wanted to avoid her because I felt she was angry with me. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I called my editor and I cried a little and I decided to write the book again. I threw out all but one section. The only prose that’s the same from In the Days of Death and Chocolate is a couple paragraphs of the Yuji Ono storyline. Once I began to write the book again, I realized that the major theme of the new version was what it means to love someone as a flawed adult versus as a “perfect” teenager. Thus, In The Days of Death and Chocolate became In the Age of Love and Chocolate. Series are typically written at such a fast pace that there’s no time to pull a move like that. I was fortunate that my publisher was supportive. On a side note, I feel certain that some of the things I did to Anya in the original book three would shock (and possibly appall) you!

MP: Given all of this upheaval, it seems like the book itself went through a lot of change itself. Is there anything you’re particularly happy to have fixed or otherwise changed in the final version of In the Age of Love and Chocolate? Is there anything you’re sorry readers won’t be able to see?

GZ: I mentioned that the previous version of the third book was rather transgressive. In rewriting the last book, I began to think that the most transgressive thing would be to write a “dystopia” (and I think we’ve already discussed my problems with that word) that was hopeful. So, no there isn’t much I miss. And in a way, writing that other version was enormously helpful. I learned things about the characters in going down that road, and some of those things definitely inflected and deepened the relationships of the final book. But to answer your question: Through a series of unusual circumstances, Nana appeared in the original third book, and I miss that a little. And there was a storyline with Mr. Delacroix that I had grown a bit attached to. But I don’t truly miss either of these elements, because I believe they both transformed into something better.

MP: I have never made a secret of my love for Yuji Ono or Mr. Delacroix or Anya herself in my reviews of  these books. As I read this final installment, I was especially struck by the evolving relationships and dynamics Anya has not just with the obvious suspects like Win or Natty but also with these not-always central characters like Yuji and Mr. Delacroix. Anya, in fact, grows a lot in terms of her relationships and interactions throughout the story. Was this a character change you always knew would be in store for Anya?

GZ: Thank you, and no you haven’t! Yuji Ono and Mr. Delacroix are some of my favorite characters to write, too.

I had always known Mr. Delacroix would be important. In my initial conception of the story, I wanted to play with the idea of what a “parent” is in a love story with teenagers. Parents so often come off as simple, mustache-twirling villains. I knew that he would go from Anya’s enemy to her friend by the end of the story. I thought it was a good lesson for a teen reader (or an adult reader) – the idea that enemies can become allies can become friends and that life is long.

And I loved writing Yuji Ono. I wanted to write a love story that was about something other than romantic love. And – I think we’ve spoken of this before – it was a goal of mine in the series to depict cultures outside of America. So often series seem to depict America, but don’t imagine the world outside of it. I want my readers, and particularly my young readers, to get a sense of how very large the world is. It was the same reason I sent Anya to Mexico (and to the Marquez family) in the second book.

One last thing I’ll say. I think there’s a great deal that can be learned from the people we consider to be antagonists in our lives.

MP: There is a lot of talk about this series being “dystopian” which isn’t quite accurate for a few reasons although the story does start in the future and, in some ways, it is not the best version of the future. Can you talk a bit about how you feel about the dystopian label here? Did it influence your choices in writing this final book in the series?

GZ: Yes, the dystopia label bothered me the entire time. I asked my publisher not to refer to it that way, and I think they tried to honor my request. But it was too late. 2011, the year ATTID came out, was the year of the dystopia! “Chocolate is illegal” was what got emphasized, because that was the simplest thing to sell and to talk about. But for me that was never the heart of the story. The reason the dystopia label bothered me was because it made readers expect a certain thing from the series, and the series didn’t end up being like that thing they were expecting. I think those who disliked the books often disliked it for that reason — a gap between what the cover suggested (recall that the hardcover of the first book had a jacket that mentioned the paper and water scarcities, chocolate and caffeine being illegal, and the year 2083). It is a Dickensian family saga. It’s, as I’ve said many times before, a book about characters, more than it ever was about the world.

However, my difficulties with the dystopia label didn’t particularly influence the third book. I had to disregard everything outside of the story and the characters. I particularly thought about the characters a lot, and that was what was really important in approaching the third book. Something that occurred to me: characters don’t ever know they are living in a dystopia. For them, it is just the world.

I did have some fun with the word “dystopia” in the book however. At one point, I think Anya tells Natty that she’s the only person she loves in this whole lousy dystopia, or something like that.

MP: This series has always made clever use of its futuristic setting (the series, for readers who aren’t aware yet, starts in 2083) by reinventing familiar places notably including the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. In the Age of Love and Chocolate once again brings Anya to some new and slightly familiar areas. How did you decide what to reinvent this time around? Throughout the series do you have a favorite location that Anya visits?

MP: Your question just made me remember something I cut! At one point in the original third book, Anya finds the head of the Statue of Liberty. Someone had stored and saved it.

I knew the most important locations in the third book would be the places where Anya opens nightclubs, and as I conceived of the book, I kind of kept thinking what landmark might I reinvent as a club? I like Leo’s club at Alacatraz and the Dark Room at the NYPL, of course. I’m also partial to the brief trip Anya and Theo take to Hershey, Pennsylvania. I liked Anya getting to experience chocolate from a different perspective. For the third book, I’d say my favorite location is not a retrofitting at all. I loved writing Anya’s trip to the farm in Niskayuna. It’s probably my favorite part of the whole series.

MP: Another fun thing about this series is that, because paper is scarce and books are rare, Anya references a lot of classic books. Dickens and Austen are two that are quick to spot in the text, however it seems that an entirely different book was your inspiration for this series. Can you tell us a bit about that and how you decided which books to reference in the story?

GZ: I’m not sure that this book had one primary reference, but I thought a lot about stories where the love takes a long time to work itself out. I’m thinking of Persuasion (probably my favorite Austen novel) and Sense and Sensibility, Jane Eyre, and Anne of the Island (the third Anne Shirley book). A theme of all these books is what it really means to love someone over time and through many obstacles. I thought about what it was to love someone even when you are certain that things can never work out, when love is beyond hope. I thought about what it was to love someone when they were no longer physically perfect, too. To answer your question: most of the references you’ll find in the third book, I chose for thematic resonance more than anything else.

MP: Now that the Birthright series has ended, can you tell us anything about your next project?

GZ: I have a book out for adults right now called The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. It’s very different from the Anya Balanchine books, but in an odd way, I know I would never have written it if I hadn’t written Anya first. Anyway, the new book is about a curmudgeonly bookseller who finds a baby in a bookstore.

MP: I want to end on an up note saying that I really appreciated the determination with which Anya faced her challenges and also the hopefulness that can be found throughout In the Age of Love and Chocolate. I was proud of Anya’s changing outlook and I loved the continuing theme of moving forward–especially Mr. Delacroix’s pronouncement to Anya that “We are where we are.” Since that has become one of my favorite quotes it only seemed appropriate to ask if you had any quotes or thoughts you returned to when looking for encouragement or optimism.

GZ: Thank you. I like this question very much. Maybe I’ll refer you back to the epigraph of In the Age of Love and Chocolate, which is excerpted from the poem “Sweetness” by Stephen Dunn. Simply put, the poem is about how we get through tragedy, and it’s one of my favorites: “Often a sweetness comes/ as if on loan, stays just long enough/ to make sense of what it means to be alive,/ then returns to its dark/ source. As for me, I don’t care/ where it’s been, or what bitter road/ it’s traveled/ to come so far, to taste so good.”

Thank you again to Gabrielle for taking the time to answer all of my questions so eloquently here. (Thank you also to her for being so kind when my email ate the original answers and I had to ask her to resend them!)

For more information about Gabrielle and her writing you can also visit her website.

If you want to know more about In the Age of Love and Chocolate be sure to check out my review.

You can also see my reviews of All These Things I’ve Done and Because It Is My Blood as well as reading my first and second interviews with Gabrielle.

In the Age of Love and Chocolate: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle ZevinAnya Balanchine knows about hardships and sacrifice. She also knows, better than most, that sometimes difficult choices have to be made.

Now eighteen and working closely with one of her former enemies, Anya is on the verge of opening a nightclub specializing in medicinal cacao–the first attempt to circumvent the laws that have made chocolate illegal in the United States for years. With that victory so close, Anya is also forced to accept the things she has lost in her efforts to legitimize the family business–namely the boy she loved, Win Delacroix.

Just as Anya begins to taste professional success, her personal life begins to fall apart. In order to make her way through, Anya will have to seek out old friends and enemies as she makes her way in this dangerous world where  chocolate is illegal and family means everything in In the Age of Love and Chocolate (2013) by Gabrielle Zevin.

Find it on Bookshop.

In the Age of Love and Chocolate is the final book in Gabrielle Zevin’s Birthright series which started with All These Things I’ve Done and Because It Is My Blood. The book itself is also broken into two parts: The Age of Chocolate and The Age of Love which, as you might have guessed, illustrate the shifting focuses of the story as well as Anya’s shifting priorities.

It’s hard to talk about the conclusion of a series without giving away too much about the story (or about the books  that came before). What I can tell you is that while this ending wasn’t always the one I expected or wanted for Anya, it is the only conclusion that makes sense for her as a character. It is the only one that could be truly satisfying after moving through the series.

Anya remains the smart, steady heroine she always was in In the Age of Love and Chocolate but her growth here is even more apparent as Anya negotiates the murky waters of adulthood and the chocolate business. Anya stumbles, she makes mistakes, but she always learns and she always tries again. She is a refreshingly strong, self-sufficient heroine and one that I am sad to leave behind as this wonderful series comes to an end.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Heist Society by Ally Carter, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Leverage (television series), White Collar (television series)

Check back tomorrow for my interview with the author!

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Sometimes a girl needs to lose.”

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle ZevinIn a different life, in a different story, she might have been named Nataliya or Natasha. She might have lived in Russia her whole life and never even thought of Brooklyn or yearbooks or cameras.

But in this life, in this story, her name is Naomi. She was adopted by a couple in Brooklyn and–although she won’t remember it for a while–she does think about yearbooks and cameras.

It starts with a coin toss. If Naomi had picked tails she never would have gone back for the camera. She wouldn’t have tripped on the stairs and hit her head. There would have been no ambulance and no amnesia. Naomi would remember her boyfriend and whatever it was they had in common. She’d remember the lives her parents have been living. She would remember her best friend Will and why he calls her Chief and keeps making her mix tapes.

But Naomi picked heads in Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (2007) by Gabrielle Zevin.

Find it on Bookshop.

Broken into parts titled “I Was,” “I Am,” and “I Will,” Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is a nuanced, thoughtful story. With Naomi’s amnesia at the center of the plot, this book asks interesting questions on the ties that hold a family together and what happens when the context that makes two people friends (or more) is suddenly taken away.

Elements of music, photography, and book design theory all add an artistic feel to this story that will hold special appeal for creative readers. Zevin’s writing is as sharp and insightful as ever while Naomi finds herself all over again during the course of the novel. With a keen focus on Naomi’s relationships as well as her romances, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is a delightful ode to friendships as well as an unexpected love story.

Possible Pairings: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Two Summers by Aimee Friedman, The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver, Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle, Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee, The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Author/Book inspired Haiku

I’m participating in a blog tour for Truth or Dare this month. One of the dares I had to complete on Twitter was a haiku for my favorite book.

This was a no brainer: Gabrielle Zevin’s Birthright Series.

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle ZevinBecause It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

Here’s the as yet untitled haiku:

A distant future

with flaws, grey areas and

chocolate danger

Zevin saw it online and gave it her stamp of approval. (We also had a nice chat because she is the absolute best.)

Anyway, I propose a challenge for you, dear readers:

What author or book would warrant a haiku tribute from you?

To go a step further: Why not write it up and share it in the comments?

Author Interview (#2): Gabrielle Zevin on Because It Is My Blood

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Gabrielle Zevin’s Birthright series. All These Things I’ve Done was one of my favorite books from 2011 and the second book in the series, Because It Is My Blood, was one of my most anticipated books for 2012 (and key to one of my favorite BEA 2012 moments).

I was lucky enough to interview Gabrielle Zevin about All These Things I’ve Done last year. After finishing Because It Is My Blood I saw there was still a lot to talk about where Anya and her story were concerned. Happily, Gabrielle is here to answer some of my questions about her latest novel Because It Is My Blood.

If you want more preliminary information about Gabrielle and the start of her Birthright series, you can also check out our earlier interview.

***Because this interview focuses on the second book in a series, it may have some minor spoilers for All These Things I’ve Done.***

Miss Print (MP): Because It Is My Blood is the second book in your Birthright series following All These Things I’ve Done. The last time we talked about All These Things I’ve Done this book’s working title was All The Kingdoms In The World. Can you tell us anything about why the title changed?

Gabrielle Zevin (GZ): While I liked ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD as a working title and on an intellectual level, I had always worried that it wasn’t expressive enough of Anya’s dilemma in the novel — that is to say, the extent to which she can’t escape her birthright no matter how far she tries to run from it.  But the main reason it changed is because I had a better concept for titling the whole series! I was talking to my editor about the title and I said to her, “Wouldn’t it be cool if all the titles of the series together formed a crazy run-on sentence synopsis of the book?” So you have half the sentence now: All these things I’ve done/because it is my blood… It’s spine poetry basically.

MP: Because It Is My Blood picks up soon after All These Things I’ve Done and continues some of the same plot threads as Anya continues to struggle with the disparity between who she is and who she would like to be. How did you keep this story unique while bringing up recurring themes from the first book in your Birthright series?

GZ: I had two major goals going into the second book. The first was that I wanted Anya to travel far from home. I wanted her to see a place other than America. I wanted her to get a sense of the life beyond New York City. I think it’s hard to find yourself when you are surrounded by the same people you’ve known your entire life. So, in a sense, everything — her hair, her boyfriend, her identity, and literally the clothes off her back — are stripped from her. The second was that I wanted Anya to have a Big Idea. This might seem like a small thing but I so often see female main characters in YA who never come up with anything. The girls are chosen; the girls have special skills (magic, beauty); the girls have friends that have big ideas. I wanted Anya to have an idea that came from her own unique set of experiences. I wanted Anya to use her brain creatively to try to improve her situation.

Another thing I think that makes the story feel different than the last one is that I wanted to write a protagonist who truly got older. Anya is seventeen in the second book. She quotes her father less. She is more questioning of her faith. By the third book, she is a full-fledged grown woman and her voice reflects that.

MP: Once again Anya makes her way through a New York City that is hauntingly familiar but also very different from the one we know today. Of the locations we’ve seen thus far in All These Things I’ve Done and this book, have you had a favorite to feature?

GZ: The Rose Reading Room at the NYPL’s main branch, of course! But it’s probably too much of a spoiler to say what happens to it. (I’m sure you can imagine how important this location is to book three.)

MP: Working off the last question, which location has been your favorite to reinvent in Anya’s New York?

GZ: Other than the NYPL and the Metropolitan Museum, I loved writing Liberty Children’s Reformatory, the former home of the Statue of Liberty. I had a lot of fun writing Anya’s… Um, let’s just say departure from Liberty.

MP: One of the interesting things about this series is the narrative structure. Although Anya narrates her own story, she does so at a remove with the benefit of hindsight and often retrospection in the form of parenthetical asides and comments directed to the reader. As a writer, how did you go about structuring Anya’s story? How did you decide when to share different details both of the story as it happened and as Anya reflects on her own story?

GZ: Anya Balanchine is not a reader and she does not come from a society that cares about reading. I had a sense that the only books she read were the ones her nana  or Imogen read, or the ones she had to read for school. Her idea of storytelling is a bit old-fashioned. In the third book, readers will find out where Anya is telling the story from and why she is telling it at all. As she gains in confidence as a writer however, Anya resorts to less formal trickery. By the third book, her writing will become more modern and more fluid. My idea had always been that the prose would mature with her.

In terms of structure? In a certain way, all narrators, not just Anya, tell their stories postmortem to the events of the story. In Birthright, the challenge has been to write a narrator who knows everything (who is definitely retrospective) but still has a voice that reflects her various ages throughout the story. This dilemma, along with the narrative asides and chapter titles, requires me to know everything about the story in advance. There is very little I’m discovering as I write in this story.

MP: While Anya does visit new places and meet new people in Because It Is My Blood, many familiar faces from book one also feature. With these returning characters we see many dramatic changes in circumstance and, in some cases, attitude and behavior. Can we expect as many surprises and upsets from the latter half of the series?

GZ: Yes. I think actually readers will be shocked about the story. A frustrating thing about writing a series is that people sometimes assume you are telling one type of story when you are really telling a different type of story. Book three will take us to even more foreign countries. (Japan and more!)  And we will see Anya in ways we have never seen her before. The only thing I would say is that this is ANYA’S STORY, not ANYA AND WIN’S STORY.

MP: Many of the characters in this series, including Anya herself, operate in grey areas with what Charles Delacroix calls a “flexible attitude toward the law.” As such it isn’t always easy to identify the heroes and villains of the story although it does make for some exciting characters. Which characters were the most fun to write this time around? Were any harder to write as Anya’s opinion of them changed?

GZ: Yes, you’re right to identify this. Anya is not an unreliable narrator, but she tells things and sees things from her point of view as we all do. I love writing villains because I don’t think of them as villains. No one ever thinks that they are truly a villain. Everyone has their reasons. I love writing Charles Delacroix. I love him more than his son. I love him because he is a good man who wants to do good things but he is operating in a system that is corrupt, which forces him to be corrupt. Anya will learn to appreciate his motivations even more as the series continues.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project? What’s in store for Anya in book three?

GZ: Book three Anya is a grown up as I mentioned before. Hers is not a love story or at least not the love story that people probably think it is. Starting on page one, important people will die and the body count only grows from there.

Thanks again to Gabrielle for taking the time to answer all of my questions so eloquently here.

For more information about Gabrielle and her writing you can also visit her website.

If you want to know more about Because It Is My Blood be sure to check out my review.

Thanks to Esther Bochner at Macmillan Audio I also have a clip to share from the audiobook of Because It Is My Blood: You can listen to the clip on my website.

Because It Is My Blood: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

**As the second in a series, this book (and the review) may contain spoilers for All These Things I’ve Done. You have been warned.**

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle ZevinAnya Balanchine knows firsthand that being the presumptive heir to an illegal chocolate empire comes with its fair share of complications. After a turbulent year filled with futile attempts to move beyond her criminal reputation and date a truly ill-advised boy–all while caring for her brother and sister–Anya is hoping that the start of autumn and her release from Liberty Children’s Facility will bring with it calmer times.

Unfortunately, nothing about Anya’s life after Liberty is calm. Her criminal record makes attending (not to mention finishing) high school nearly impossible.

Her little sister Natty has grown up during Anya’s time away. Scarlet, her best friend, seems closer than ever to her odious boyfriend Gable. And Win? The boy who made Anya want to give up almost everything her family stood for seems to have a new love.

Anya isn’t sure where she fits into this world where everything and everyone has moved on without her except that she hopes it has nothing to do with her extended family. Or chocolate.

Unfortunately, as ever, Anya’s wants are overlooked as she is drawn back into the Balanchine’s world of crime, chocolate and intrigue. Taken away from the city and the people that she loves, Anya will have to decide what price she is willing to pay for safety and who she truly wants to be in Because It Is My Blood (2012) by Gabrielle Zevin.

Find it on Bookshop.

Because It Is My Blood is the second book in Gabrielle Zevin’s Birthright series which started with All These Things I’ve Done.

As exciting as Because It Is My Blood can be, this novel’s strength is in its focus on Anya. She is still impetuous and often acts rashly. But she is also circumspect and calculating–as is fitting of a mafiya princess, even a reluctant one.

While Anya struggles with familiar questions about her family and her identity, Zevin keeps the story original with her surprising turns and Anya’s wry, eloquent narration. Readers will also notice Anya’s continued growth as she moves out from her dead father’s shadow (and advice) to begin making her own decisions.

Zevin also continues to delicately build Anya’s world in Because It Is My Blood with some tantalizing hints of what readers can expect in the latter half of this series. As our heroine moves beyond the island of Manhattan, Zevin develops the politics of 2083 that surround a country where chocolate is illegal and many other items are in short supply.

Because It Is My Blood proves that Anya still has more to learn and even more tricks up her sleeve making this book another absorbing installment in an already gripping series.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Heist Society by Ally Carter, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Leverage (television series), White Collar (television series)

Thanks to Esther Bochner at Macmillan Audio I also have a clip to share from the audiobook of Because It Is My Blood: You can listen to the clip on my website.

You can also read my exclusive interview with Gabrielle Zevin!

Also be sure to check out the cool trailer.

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012

Author Interview: Gabrielle Zevin on All These Things I’ve Done

Gabrielle Zevin is the author of several books including Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac as well as the screenplay for Conversations With Other Women. Her latest book, All These Things I’ve Done came out earlier this week (September 6, 2011). In addition to being a catchy, clever twist on dystopian futures and organized crime, All These Things I’ve Done was one of my favorite reads this summer. I’m delighted that Gabrielle was able to fit an interview into her schedule to answer some questions about this latest novel.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Gabrielle Zevin (GZ): I was an avid reader who became a writer because it turned out I had an aptitude for both lying and solitude. In terms of my career… I think I got to this point through willful self-delusion and lots of caffeine. Seriously though, there’s much discussion about the end of conventional publishers in the wake of e-books. I can honestly say that I probably wouldn’t be a writer if there hadn’t been conventional publishers when I was starting. I learned my craft by working with professionals at the top level who knew more than me about everything from content to design to promotion. Some writers, by the way, have no gift for self-promotion, but they still write beautiful and worthy books. In fact,  it could be said that the kind of introspection it takes to write a really original novel can be in direct opposition to the ability to self-promote. My point is, I’m lucky that I came up when I did. I’ve had a lot of support. It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to publish a book.

MP: All These Things I’ve Done is your third young adult novel. You have also written two novels that were marketed to adults as well as the screenplay for Conversations With Other Women. What is it like writing for these different audiences/formats? Does your writing process change in these different areas?

GZ: I suspect I would have quit writing a long time ago if I hadn’t been able to move around among genres, kinds of characters, styles of writing. There’s nothing as creatively freeing as trying something you haven’t done before. In terms of process? It is just as difficult and painful to write a young adult novel, a screenplay, or a “serious” work of literary fiction. (I’ve never read anything as absurd as that piece in Slate.)

MP: What was the inspiration for All These Things I’ve Done?

GZ: I’ve always loved organized crime stories — despite the fact that the women characters are usually wive or hookers — and I wanted to tell one where the girl tries to rise to the power.

MP: All These Things I’ve Done is the first book in a series. Do you have a set arc for Anya’s story or know how many books will be in the series?

GZ: I absolutely have a set arc. Anya is going to grow up and go through so much and travel to so many places, I’m kind of dying for readers to get to the next book. (The one thing I want readers to know is that sometimes when a boy looks too good to be true, it’s because he is. And, for the record, most of us don’t end up marrying the boy we loved in high school.)

There’s going to be four books. I know that some places say three, but I’ve always planned for four.

MP: The book is set in 2083 and a lot of things are scarce (like paper) and some are illegal (most notably chocolate and coffee). Did you always know chocolate would play such a big part in the story? What is your favorite kind of chocolate or coffee?

GZ: I chose chocolate very early on. I’d watched the documentary Food Inc., and after seeing it,  I’d gotten kind of obsessed with the business of food — i.e., the extent to which large corporations play a role in what we consume. Chocolate appealed to me because, as it turns out, cacao is a fascinating  crop. It’s extremely difficult to grow, and really only thrives in a handful of places around the world. The Mayans believed cacao had healing properties and even used it as currency. The DSM doesn’t go so far as to classify it as a drug, but they do note that it is one of the few foods that people experience withdrawal-like symptoms from. I also found it interesting the way chocolate is packaged with a cacao percentage on the label, not unlike the way alcohol is packaged with a proof number.

The weird thing is, I’m not the biggest chocolate person. I’ve grown an appreciation for it from all the research I did for the book, but I don’t crave it and I could live without it. (If it was a society that banned bread, I’d be a lot more upset!) I once read an interview with Ralph Fiennes (who plays Voldemort) in which they asked him if he was a big Harry Potter Fan. He replied that he wasn’t, but that the man who played Voldemort probably shouldn’t be. I guess it’s like that for me and chocolate. I do love coffee however — I’m an espresso girl. Don’t know how to write a book without it.

MP: How did you approach writing a story about such distinct future? Did your vision for Anya’s New York start with a specific place or aspect?

GZ: My approach was to not write the future like it was the future. Because if you are a person living in the future, you’re not thinking how amazing and odd everything is, and you’re not going to explain the world as if the reader is living in the past. I absolutely didn’t put anything in the book that didn’t come plausibly through Anya’s point of view. Anya is not a history teacher or a political scientist, and her knowledge of how the world works is pretty shallow in a way, especially in the first book.

I’ve lived in New York City most of my life, but this is the first novel I’ve set there. So writing the world was easy, or as easy as these things ever are. I just imagined what would happen if the economy never picked up, if we stopped funding the arts and the parks, and if everything got a little worse each year, instead of a little better. I think it might have started with a docent at Metropolitan telling me that I should give more than the suggested ticket price, because the museum needed it. Despite how bad the economy was/is, I really had never thought than institution like the Metropolitan Museum of Art would ever be in jeopardy. But you start looking into it and things are bad everywhere, and especially for the things that are considered non-essentials like, you know, culture.

MP: One of the things that I really enjoyed about All These Things I’ve Done is that it is set in New York City—albeit a New York of the future where a lot of things are different. How did you decide what details to include in Anya’s version of the city? Are you particularly fond of any details? (I was especially struck by Little Egypt and Liberty Island.)

GZ: As I mentioned, I only included details that were absolutely relevant to Anya’s point-of-view. Anya really won’t tell you anything that doesn’t concern her. Beyond that, I guess I probably chose the places I thought I’d miss the most if they weren’t there any longer. Little Egypt definitely came from that museum trip. Liberty Children’s began from a news story I read about the cost of maintaining the Statue of Liberty.

In terms of favorites? The New York Public Library (referred to as The Lion’s Den) makes a very brief appear in the book, but it ends up being extremely important in the series.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

GZ: I’m finished with the sequel, which right now is called All the Kingdoms of the World. I’m writing a screenplay, an adaptation of a book (not by me). And I’m seriously flirting with writing a middle grade novel.

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

GZ: Be ruthless with yourself. Be kind to other writers. Remember that books do occasionally have  goals besides making you “like” them. (In fact, I’d argue that the books you truly hate can be better writing teachers than the ones you love.) Finally, invest in a good chair.

You can also read my review of All These Things I’ve Done

All These Things I’ve Done: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle ZevinAnya Balanchine lives in a world where chocolate is illegal, water is scarce and New York City is a ghost of what it once was. Central Park is no longer a park. The Metropolitan Museum is a night club.

Anya’s life has been touched by tragedy, if not hardship, as the daughter of an infamous (and dead) crime boss. With her parents gone, it falls to Anya to take care of her siblings and protect them from the family business.

But when the family business is illegal chocolate, it’s hard to stay on the sidelines–especially when the new boy at school that you might like happens to be the son of the new assistant district attorney. Suddenly all of the decisions Anya has been avoiding need to be made and this time it might not be possible to keep everyone safe.

In a world where so much has changed and family means everything, falling in love could be deadly in All These Things I’ve Done (2011) by Gabrielle Zevin.

Find it on Bookshop.

All These Things I’ve Done is the dynamic start to Zevin’s Birthright series–happily so since this book leaves readers who are looking for dystopians, noir stories, and even heist stories like White Cat or Heist Society wanting a lot more.

Although the story is  little gory and gritty at times (and maybe even a little bleak thinking about a world where the Met is a nightclub and paper is a thing of the past) Zevin still manages to imbue Anya’s narrative with hope. Throughout all of her travails, Anya manages to persevere. Even at her most ruthless and pragmatic Anya remains a completely sympathetic heroine. Zevin also cleverly reverses typical tropes casting Anya as the hero while her boyfriend stands in as the “damsel in distress” of this story.

The writing here is beautiful and frank, immediately evoking the strange new world Anya calls home complete with details specific to New York and a remarkably well-realized landscape. All These Things I’ve Done presents a taut story filled with tension and suspense that starts off what promises to be a remarkable series.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Heist Society by Ally Carter, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Leverage (television series), White Collar (television series)

You can also read my exclusive interview with Gabrielle Zevin!

*A copy of this book was acquired for review from the publisher*