Because It Is My Blood (Birthright series #2) by Gabrielle Zevin
Publication date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Since her release from Liberty Children's Facility, Anya Balanchine is determined to follow the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, her criminal record is making it hard for her to do that. No high school wants her with a gun possession charge on her rap sheet. Plus, all the people in her life have moved on: Natty has skipped two grades at Holy Trinity, Scarlet and Gable seem closer than ever, and even Win is in a new relationship.But when old friends return demanding that certain debts be paid, Anya is thrown right back into the criminal world that she had been determined to escape. It’s a journey that will take her across the ocean and straight into the heart of the birthplace of chocolate where her resolve--and her heart--will be tested as never before.
Book two in the Birthright series, Because It Is My Blood introduces a host of new characters and new intrigues in Anya Balanchine's life. Leo, Anya's older brother, has been safely hidden in Japan, with the help of Yuji Ono. Nataliya, or Nattie, has been sent to a summer camp for gifted children and returns a young woman. Scarlet, Anya's best friend is in a relationship with Gable, much to Anya's dismay. Anya, Leo and Nattie are still grieving the death of their grandmother Galina. Anya realizes that her continued relationship with Win is on dangerously shaky ground as a result of his father's campaign to become District Attorney. Imogen Goodfellow is currently functioning as Anya and Nattie's nanny, and is the only constant adult presence in their lives except for the family lawyer, Mr. Kipling.
As Anya struggles to keep herself and Nattie safe from Balanchine family machinations, she must also find a school willing to accept her for her senior year. Unbelievably, the latter is much harder than the former. Anya also finds herself embroiled in Balanchine family squabbles as a result of Mikhail "Mickey" Balanchine taking over the business now that his father, Yuri, is incapacitated. If that wasn't enough to deal with, Anya is used as a tool in the district attorney campaign race (the opponent constantly uses Anya's familial criminal ties, not to mention Anya's crimes, and her relationship with Win, to detract from the campaign of Charles Delacroix) and is constantly besieged by various adults with ulterior motives.
Just when it seems like Anya's life might be gradually turning around, she is arrested again, charged with violating the terms of her release, and then poisoned while in custody at Liberty. It is then decided that she should leave the country and arrangements are made for her to travel to Mexico and live with Sophia Bitter (Mickey's wife) Balanchine's family, the Marquez family. While in exile as an escapee from Liberty, Anya learns about the growing and production of cacao from this family. Again, just when it appears that things are going well for Anya an attempt is made on her life and the youngest son of the Marquez family is caught in the crossfire. This attempt ends with Anya returning to the US, making a deal with the new district attorney, a return trip to Liberty, and a brief home confinement.
To say that Anya is living a difficult life is a massive understatement, but even though she has moments of despair, she perseveres. Because It Is My Blood features political machinations, familial machinations, numerous attempts at murder, strange business plans and partnerships, and routine teenage angst. Once again, Ms. Zevin pulls the reader into Anya's world and it isn't possible to feel Anya's pain, fear, love and confusion as she attempts to make sense of everything that is happening. Nattie, Mr. Kipling, and even Simon Green are more prominently featured, as are Yuji Ono, Scarlet, and Gable. This was a fast read that held my attention from the first page until the very last. My only disappointment is that I have to wait for book three to find out what will happen to everyone. As I stated with All These Things I've Done, Because It Is My Blood may be classified as a YA book but it can truly be enjoyed by readers of all ages. If you read book one in this series, run and get book two (if you haven't read book one, add it and Because It Is My Blood to your to-be-read list ASAP) . . . you won't be disappointed.
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Read an excerpt:
I AM RELEASED INTO SOCIETY
“COME IN, ANYA, have a seat. We find ourselves in the midst of a situation,” Evelyn Cobrawick greeted me, parting her painted red lips to reveal a cheerful sliver of yellow tooth. Was this meant to be a grin? I certainly hoped not. My fellow inmates at Liberty Children’s Facility were of the universal opinion that Mrs. Cobrawick was at her most dangerous when smiling. It was the night before my release and I had been summoned to the headmistress’s chambers.
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