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.
I do love reading about Annie's adventures - this time she is still in danger but is forced to flee the country, for her own and her family's safety. Because, once again, she's in trouble with the law and Charles Delacroix makes things worse. But rather than just stashing her away in prison, Anya's life is in danger and it's the quick-thinking of her lawyers and the bravery of her and her friends that gets her out of the country before things hit the fan.
This book can essentially be split into three: before Mexico, in Mexico, and back in New York. All three parts are full of dangers and secrets, the most precedent is that Anya's being screwed over again. She is a tool in Mr Delacriox's run for office and comes off worse for wear, with the whole being sent to prison for no good reason. Then in Mexico, she is sent to her cousin's wife's family who runs a cacao farm. There, Anya discovers more about the family business, and what it means to be a Balanchine and in the chocolate business. As much as I love the grime and grit of New York, it was nice to see Anya in a different setting, especially such a humid one as Mexico. Anya has never left the city before and you could really sense her shock and interest at how things were different, like chocolate was legal, and the hot weather, and the hard work that goes into farming.
And finally, back in New York, Anya's still be danger after an attempt on her life and seemingly the hit came from her own family, but at least she's on her home turf. Not that is any better when someone is trying to take over her family business by killing her. The underground politics was fascinating, if a little complicated. Easy enough to follow, you know, the cousin's wife is the competition, there may be a new half-brother in the mix, Anya's "too young" to understand it all, blah blah. But she really holds her own, she was fed up (understandably) with her crappy lot in life and taking everyone else's orders so she finally does something about it. Something unexpected, but I was proud of her.
In the midst of all this, there was still the family and friendship drama that makes Anya's home life complicated. I loved her relationship with Natty in the first book and it's still going strong in this one, as well as Scarlet and Win, although there are some, let's say complications on that front! But Annie's growing up and is staking her claim in the chocolate business, showing New York once and for all that she is not to be reckoned with.
Published 29th August 2013 by MacMillan's Children's Books.