This was a great read! This is a fast paced story about, family, friendship, love, and the lengths we will go to in order to protect the ones we care about most regardless of the consequences.
The only negative thing I can say about this book is that my "Trilodar (the ability to tell that a book is part of a triology and/or series) didn't go off until I was 3/4 of the way through it. I was not ready for this story to end yet!
Imagine living in a world, our world where a) caffeine is illegal, b) chocolate is contraband c) water is so expensive it's rationed and d) anyone born in 1995 is old...like ancient, one foot in the grave, on their deathbed, old. Insane, right? (Especially the part about caffeine being illegal - feel free to shoot me now!)
This is where the story of 16 yr old Anya Balanchine begins. The year is 2083, and the place is NYC. Anya is the daughter of deceased, crime boss, Leonyd Balanchine whose family owns the Balanchine Chocolate Company. (It would be like if the Hershey's were our country's number one crime boss family.)
Anya has two siblings, 18yr old Leo who is technically the legal guardian but was left with limited abilities after being injured as a child in a botched hit on their father's life (it killed their mother instead) and 12yr old sister Natty who is sweet yet precocious at times. Their paternal grandmother, Nana, lives with them and seems to be their closet relative who isn't directly linked to the "family business" but she's on her deathbed (literally) and not much help to them other than sharing stories of a different, busier life when words had to be shortened to acronyms like "O.M.G." and her secret stash of Balanchine Special Dark bars.
Anya is smart, strong, pretty and incredibly selfless. She's always putting everyone else first, almost to a fault and the sacrifices she makes for those she loves are both admirable and heartbreaking. She does have a bit of a temper which gets her into some trouble but at times she exercises incredible self control in situations where others who were not as strong would crumble like a cookie.
Scarlet Barber is Anya's long time BFF and is everything you want in a best friend - she's loyal, honest, and she loves Anya and her family like her own. She's a bit odd and somewhat of an outcast at school but she's definitely the one you want on your side. Go TEAM SCARLET!
Gable Arsley is Anya's ex-boyfriend and he's, well, pretty much an "ars". He's cocky, good looking, and he's used to doing whatever he wants and getting away with it, even if it's illegal.
Goodwin or "Win" Delacroix is the new guy at school and he's not only beautiful, kindhearted and smart but happens to take a liking to Anya and she to him. The only problem is that Win's father is the new Assistant D.A. and doesn't want him to have anything to do with the daughter of a crime boss. (Yeah, that kinda creates a problem for Dad's public image, dontcha think?)
Anya has no desire to be a part of the "family business" even as some of her relatives tell her it's her birthright. (Birthright?!, what year is this anyway, 1980?!) She wants nothing more than to live a normal, teenage life but is plagued by her last name and her father's criminal history everywhere she turns. Ironically, she really wants to be a Crime Scene Investigator when she grows up, which doesn't exactly mesh with the family biz. When things start to happen throughout the city and within the world of chocolate, people are hurt, blame is placed and Anya will be forced to make a choice between protecting what she loves most - her family or her true love.
** Personal side note **
One of the running themes in this book is Anya's Catholicism which I found both familiar and funny because I can relate to it. When she's struggling with certain decisions (with Win) and whether or not she'll go to to Hell for it I couldn't help but laugh, especially in comparison with the magnitude of the family business and how they "resolve" their problems (Leo & Uncle Yuri). Having grown up Catholic and attending Catholic school for years, I understand the "guilt" all too well. Thankfully, I don't have to worry about that any more because understand now that it's about a relationship with Christ and not a religion. :)