Because It’s In My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012. ISBN: 9780374380748, and In The Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013. ISBN: 9780374380755. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.
I reviewed the first book in the series a while ago. In the second book, Anya does her best to stay on the straight and narrow, but the world isn’t interested in allowing her to have a normal teenage life. Her sister has skipped two grades, her best friend has gotten hot and heavy with Anya’s sleazy ex and her boyfriend, Win has a new love of his own. Win’s father is running for district attorney and makes it very clear that any contact between his son and Anya can’t happen. All it takes is one photo snapped by people working for Mr. Delacroix’s opponent, showing them holding hands in the school cafeteria and Anya is on her way back to Liberty, the horrific juvenile prison she spent time in before. This time, she arranges an escape and ends up in Mexico on a cacao plantation where she begins an odd relationship with Theo a young man near her age, whose family owns the place. After surviving an assassination attempt, she returns to New York when Mr. Delacroix loses the election.
Despite her best efforts, Anya can’t escape the Balanchine chocolate legacy. Determined to be as independent as possible, she begins working with Mr. Delacroix to open a lounge where medicinal cacao can be dispensed in drinks for those who have a prescription. Unfortunately, this decision costs her Win and at the end of book two, she’s empty and alone, but determined to go forward with her plan.
In the final book, Anya finds herself in a self-imposed emotional prison. The lounge was so successful she had to expand and now, with help from the Balanchine Family syndicate and her brother, lounges have sprung up all over the country. Natty has survived her own crisis and is on track to go to college and make her dream of finding a way to make more clean water available come true. Theo wants a relationship with Anya, but after she spurns him and enters a marriage of convenience with Yuji Ono, head of the Japanese chocolate family because he’s dying after being poisoned by Sophia, a former lover and widow of one of Anya’s cousins, he finally leaves. Shortly after her marriage, Yuji dies, leaving Anya in control of 2/5ths of the world’s chocolate empire. Sophia attacks her and nearly kills her. It takes months of painful recovery before Anya even wants to be around other people. When that moment comes, Mr. Delacroix arranges fro her to recuperate on the upstate New York farm owned by his ex-wife. The combination of a rustic farm setting and the love and caring of her sister, Nattie and Win who never stopped loving her, finally breaks down all of Anya’s walls. Battered and wiser, she’s finally able to open up an accept what had been waiting for her all the time.
This is an excellent trilogy for teens who like an intricate plot with characters who get banged about by life’s misfortunes. They might read a bit slower than other books, but they’re well worth the effort.