In Review: All Fall Down

I didn't enjoy the lead character and found the conclusion dissatisfying.

All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Published by Scholastic, February 2015. Hardcover of 310 pages at $17.99. Intended for ages 11 – 13, Grades 7 – 9.

The cover: Designed by Yaffa Jaskall, with art by Kenneth Choi, with the cityscape copyrighted by Dennis van de Water/Shutterstock, Inc., this is a strong cover. The author’s name is at the top in white, a logo representing the embassies follows bellow, with the title of the novel in red font superimposed over it, split with lines to show its destruction, ending with the back of young girl looking upon a European city. This looks almost like a James Bond poster. Very dramatic. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the inside front cover, “Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things: 1. She is not crazy; 2. Her mother was murdered; 3. Somday she is going to find him and make him pay. As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her–so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands. Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace–no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her…and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.” This is a good teaser because it establishes the heroine’s background, the conflict, two supporting characters, and the setting. Very smoothly done without revealing the plot of the novel. This also introduces Grace’s sense of isolation which is key throught the book. Plus, no major plot points are spoiled in this summary. Overall grade: A

The characters: The protagonist, as established by the premise, is Grace Blakely. She’s not happy to be in Embassy Row, she has no friends, and she is paranoidd as all get out. Having her so nervous about her situation, feeling scared about seeing her mother’s killer, and unable to trust anyone should make her a highly interesting and sympathetic character. This is not the case because she’s constantly yelling or dwelling on paranoid internal monologues. I had no sympathy for this thirteen year old whatsoever. This is a major issue for the book, because if one can’t enjoy the lead, one can’t enjoy the book. She’s surrounded by peers who live at other embassies, such as Alexei Volkov (Russia) and Noah Miguel Estaban (Israel and Brazil), and Megan, whose mother has worked at the embassy since Grace was young, though they’ve never gotten along. Noah is the most developed character, with a strong and fun personality, and Megan grows considerably the more she appears. This duo becomes Grace’s besties. Three adults also have influence on Grace, her grandfather, the U.S. ambassador, Ms. Chancellor, who words at the embassy and tries to keep Grace in line, and the man with the scar, whom Grace recognizes as the man who killed her mother. Grandpa is the traditional old man who tries, but fails, to be a parent, Ms. Chancellor is focused perfection personified, and the scarred man is the object she fears. The last fifteen pages reveals a major shift for how she perceives one of these adults. The supporting cast of this novel is fine, burt I couldn’t stand the lead. Overall grade: D

The settings: The fictional city of Valancia, in the fictional country of Adria, a Mediterranean country. All of this country’s embassies are in a large enclosure. This is a fantastic setting, as it keeps all the children enclosed in one area, and when they venture out of this, seemingly, safe environment the tension is palpable. There is also an abandoned embassy that everyone stays out of, except for our lead and her friends. This was a creepy setting and instantly created tension when visited. Author Ally Carter is very successful with these settings and their descriptions. Overall grade: A

The action: The end of Chapter Thirty-One introduces the main conflict of the novel, and it’s good, with its resolution very satisfying. Before this, however, the novel focuses on something that Grace has overheard, and it becomes a question of her trying to get others to believe what she’s heard and whom she’s seen. It goes on way too long. I was very tired with the Chicken Little moments, and just wanted people to completely believe her or have the sky fall down. The constant back and forth of new threat, new cries of warning, their dismissal, and addition of new threat was exhausting, not thrilling. Overall grade: C

The conclusion: The last chapter turns the book on its end and finishes with a cliffhanger for Grace’s growth. Because of this, the book has no conclusion. I felt as though I was reading a prelude for the next novel in this series. Novels can end with cliffhangers and create a sense of conclusion, but this did not. This was very dissatisfying. Overall grade: D-

The final line: I didn’t enjoy the lead character and found the conclusion dissatisfying. I would pass on this book. Overall grade: D+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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