Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
The second book in the Birthright trilogy begins with Anya Balanchine being released from Liberty Children’s Facility, ready to get back to her regular life, but sure that she’ll do so by following the rules and especially the law. Unfortunately, she can’t get back into Holy Trinity to finish high school, and no other schools will take her due to her criminal record. Her sister, ex-boyfriend Win, and best friend Scarlet have continued living their lives when Anya was gone, and as a result of that things have changed a lot by the time she gets back. In addition, her ties to her family’s chocolate business have put a huge target on her back, so Anya travels to Mexico, where chocolate is not only legal but plentiful, and begins to develop her own ideas about the family business.
After becoming enamored with the first volume in the Birthright trilogy, All These Things I’ve Done, I knew I’d need to get my hands on this second installment as soon as I could. I’m happy to say that this novel did not fall into the middle-of-trilogy trap that lots of these kinds of books do – it was not at all forgettable, it added necessary elements to the arc of Anya’s story, and was compulsively readable. I may have liked it even more than the first one, in fact.
I think the aspect of this novel I liked the most was the fact that Anya has grown up a lot in the space between the two books and it really shows in the character development that Zevin gives the reader. She’s still the same tough-as-nails girl she was in the first book, and she hasn’t lost her softer side, but somehow she’s gotten smarter, more resourceful, and more realistic about the world she lives in and her part in it. She’s still not interested in getting involved with the family business, but there’s a point at which she realizes she may not have a choice. Instead of bemoaning that fact, she decides to come up with a different, maybe better, way to be involved with the business. I liked where Zevin took Anya’s character and I have high hopes for even further development in the third book.
One of the complaints I had with the first book in this series is that I didn’t feel there was much explanation as to why chocolate and coffee were made illegal. Because It Is My Blood answers that question, and for that I was grateful, although I’m not sure how much I buy the explanation Zevin delivers. It made sense and it cleared some things up for me, but I’m not sure Zevin took these explanations far enough to explain as much of this future world as I would have hoped.
That being said, I really, truly enjoyed Because It Is My Blood and I was hanging on every single word throughout the novel. I like this series because it’s very unique, well-written, and still has the solid characterization that I need in a good novel. If you think this is just another YA dystopia I have to say that you are wrong, as there’s something extra special about this series. I’d definitely recommend giving it a try.