All Fall Down
Author: Ally Carter
Release: January 20th 2015
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary, YA
#1 in the Embassy Row trilogy
Sequels: See How They Run (#2), Take the Key and Lock Her Up (#3)
A new series of global proportions -- from master of intrigue, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter.
This exciting new series from NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter focuses on Grace, who can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world, and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.
Now, at age sixteen, she's come back to stay--in order to solve the mystery of her mother's death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved.
The truly great thing this novel has to bring to the table is the fact that it's something utterly unique. At least, to me it is. I have never read a book that comes even close to the rough premise of this one, which by the way, I found pretty fascinating. An army brat living with kids of different nationalities in a street lined with different embassies of all countries. It was so cool and such a fresh concept in YA, I loved it.
At this point, another thing I really, really appreciated about the novel was its feminist stance. Grace is mentally unstable and constantly belittled and coddled by her family and, partially, also her friends, and she raises so many questions regarding her status as a girl and what role it plays in how people treat her:
“I wish I were bigger, stronger. Male. I wish I could make people stop worrying about me and my so-called frailness.”
(...) “Would they have locked me up if I'd been thirty? If I'd been a boy? It's a question I do not dare to ask.”
(...) I've been surrounded by boys and men my whole life, always there, making me feel smaller, weaker. Different.”
Consequently, this book also raises awareness of some of today's feminist issues that are almost natural by now and you don't even really have on your radar on a daily basis, calling them into question and bringing forth absolutely wonderful quotes (and characters) such as these:
“"He said man stuff," I tell her as we walk away.
"He did indeed, dear."
"Are you okay with that? Tell me you are not okay with the phrase man stuff."
"I am not," she says through a too-bright smile.
"But Queen Catalina bided her time and ruled for sixty years, my dear."”
Just... yes. Yes. So much yes!!
In turn, I also really came around to more or less liking the characters. Ms Chancellor, who at first appears a bit shady and it is unclear whether she's truly on Grace's side or not, turned out to be such a wonderfully crafted and rich character, I think she was one of the best in the whole novel. Similarly, there's a girl named Megan that Grace used to look down on as a kid because she always wanted to play with Barbies, and now as a grown-up she's a computer genius; then there's little, young Rosie who is also really bright and clever, quick to figure things out and completely nonjudgmental; this whole book is filled with complex, interesting female characters that have so much vibrancy in them and all of them are so vastly different from each other, I was close to jumping around in joy. I loved it. I really, really did.
The other characters were also nicely developed, especially Grace's character arc was intriguing to track, although sometimes it wasn't always that clear where her path was headed in the end. Noah seemed a bit shallow sometimes, since he didn't get that much development beyond his backstory, and Alexei, the love interest, was completely shrouded in mystery the whole novel, which wasn't remedied at all. Then again, he doesn't really play a major role, maybe that's going to come in the next novel and then I'll expect him to be more fleshed out. But, for now, I'm very satisfied with the characters of this one.
As for the plot, this is where it starts to get ugly. See, for me personally, it wasn't a huge issue. I enjoyed the book simply because of its original and creative premise and atmosphere, I liked the outlook on the world of embassies and political strategies, conspiracy theories and whatnot, but in hindsight, there really isn't much happening. Or anything, in fact, up until the last ~10-15%. Which is quite a shame. And that's ultimately where the book fails to really deliver.
Still, what sort of redeems the lack of substantial plot is the truly excellently executed plot twist at the end. Seriously, it threw me off so hard, just when I think I finally figured it all out and was just about ready to write the whole book off as a disappointment because of its predictability, it did a 180 yet again and completely surprised me. I swear, if anyone tells me that they saw that ending coming, I'll call them a liar. There's just no way.
Lastly, I also want to commend the writing. Written in 1st person from Grace's POV, she was such a pleasant and humorous narrator, I had so much fun reading the novel purely because the way it was written was fantastic. It was a very nice blend of serious and pretty prose and jokes and witty banter. I especially loved the way Carter included the title of the novel and spun it all into a beautiful sentence:
“I appreciate the tightrope that my grandfather has spent his whole life trying to walk. And now, more than ever, I grow terrified that I am going to make us all fall down.”
In the end, I myself am really satisfied with the book. It's not super duper exciting or anything, but, for me, it was extremely enjoyable and I had fun reading, which is more than enough for me. I even stayed up later than I should have to read more chapters, and I'll definitely be keeping my eyes and ears open about any possible sequels.