Because It Is My Blood
Gabrielle Zevin follows ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE with BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD, the second volume of her near-future trilogy about a young woman caught between her criminal heritage and her hopes for the future.
The world Gabrielle Zevin created in her near-future book ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE was both unsettlingly familiar and startlingly familiar. Just as compelling as the world she created was the protagonist at the center of it. Anya Balanchine is a young woman caught between family history and her own desires, between loyalty and independence, between love and duty.
"Anya's flaws are what make her a complicated, thoroughly human character, one whom readers will enjoy continuing to try to understand...Readers will love her, flawed as she is."
Now Anya is back in BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD, the second volume in Zevin's eagerly-awaited second volume in the Birthright trilogy. When we catch up with her, she's just about finished a three-month sentence at the Liberty Children's Facility, serving time for shooting the cousin who tried to kill her former boyfriend, Win. She feels like a million things have changed in her absence. Her little sister doesn't seem to need her anymore, her best friends are playing out their own personal dramas, and even Win seems to have moved on without her. She tries to pick up the pieces of her former life, but she's not sure what's worth saving and what would be better off leaving behind.
When she finds herself threatened by Win's father, the new district attorney, she decides the safest possible place for her would be on her family's chocolate plantation in South America. There she discovers a world of simple and unfamiliar pleasures, a reconnection to her roots and even a potential new love interest that might help her forget Win for a time. When her life starts to catch up with her and she has to head home, what direction will Anya's life take? Will she return to her mafia roots? Will she follow the rules? Or will she forge her own path?
With its quaint chapter titles reminiscent of books like Great Expectations (for example, "I Receive an Unexpected Visitor with an Unexpected Request"), and with its quick pacing, especially in the second half, BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD reads like an old-fashioned adventure novel. The novel's setting, too, although futuristic in nature, in many ways resembles the past.
Near the end of BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD, Anya imagines saying to Win, "Forgive me…I don't know why I am the way I am. I don't know why I do the things I do…Love me a little, even though I'm flawed.'" Anya's flaws are what make her a complicated, thoroughly human character, one whom readers will enjoy continuing to try to understand. Anya, who often tries to do the right thing but fails, who genuinely wrestles with huge moral dilemmas, who wonders continually about the role of heredity and upbringing on her own character and on her future, is hardly perfect, but she is believable. Readers will love her, flawed as she is.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 14, 2012