Can you imagine a world where chocolate and caffeine are illegal, yet alcohol is perfectly legal even for children? I can't. I love chocolate way too much to be able to give it up, but this is what Anya Balanchine, the main character of this book, is living with. Anya is the daughter of a famous mafia lord who was killed by an unknown person. This tragedy, together with the one that killed her mother, left Anya, her older brother, and younger sister, as orphans and under the care of her ailing grandmother. Although Anya is the middle child, she really is the one running the show. Her older brother was victim to a car accident, the one that killed their mother, which caused him brain damage, therefore making him unfit as caregiver even though he is technically an adult.
Anya has a lot of responsibilities on her young shoulders. She has to take care of her brother, her sister, and her grandmother who is on life support, as well as live with the fact that her family name is one tainted by the long time family business of making chocolate. Anya's family is one of the most famous makers of counterfeit chocolate, making them a mafia. Even though Anya is not directly involved in any of the family's operation, she is guilty by association and her family's legacy follows her wherever she goes. She learns how to live with it though, knowing that through thick and thin, family is important. It all turns south when a batch of the family chocolate is laced with a poison that almost kills her ex-boyfriend, just days after they break up, in a bad way. This makes Anya the number one suspect, unleashing a series of events that changes Anya's life forever.
I enjoyed this book so much. I felt a connection to Anya's situation. No, my family is not in the mafia or smuggling illegal goods anywhere, but it brought me back to my teenage years when I had to practically raise my younger and sister. We were newly arrived immigrants and my father and step-mother couldn't afford to pay a babysitter while they each worked double shifts. That made me the one in charge. I felt tremendous pressure, not to mention a bit bothered about the way I was "wasting" my teenage years. I felt all these emotions again as I read Anya's story in her point of view.
I did feel that the cover didn't capture the essence of the book. It is a little boring and what I found between them was completely not what I had expecting by judging the cover. I give this book 4 stars for being an amazing dystopian story, different in its own right, with a refreshing point of view on what the future might hold for us. Deducting 1 point for the cover, which I thought could have been better. A great read and a must-have in your shelves.
(Originally reviewed at JJiReads.blogspot.com)