Twists and turns in an ace setting – ‘All Fall Down’

AllFallDownThe Embassy Row series seemed to be popping out at me from everywhere, and I was intrigued. So when Book 1 showed up at my library, I grabbed it.

‘All Fall Down’ by Ally Carter was an unexpected surprise for me. I had very little idea what the series was about, and what I did know had me thinking it was going to be something a bit Selection-y (perhaps because of the cover of Book 3). It’s not.

It’s got more grit and less glamour, with an ace setting and many twists and turns that will have you wishing you’d trailed string behind you in those dark underground tunnels so you could crawl out to safety.

And check out the cover. I love the fractured font above the soft image.

It is a bridging YA text, you could be confident giving it to middle-grade readers who are looking for something more, as well as more seasoned YA readers. The book combines adventure and mystery with the gaining, and losing, of friendships. As well as some harder issues around mental illness and grief.

So, what worked?

  • The inspired setting
  • The plot twists
  • The supporting cast

Setting – What a great place for a story!

Two big thumbs up to Carter for thinking of it! Setting a book along a row of luxurious Embassies in a foreign country, where all the kids of the different countries get to hang out together. Opportunities abound for awesome. It’s inspired.

Plus, there are underground passages leading all over. Coolness.

It’s a setting that allows for grandeur and danger and high-stakes, and it’s a perfect world for this story. I love how they refer to each embassy as the country it is, eg “Brazil is totally dark when we get there.”

“Oh my gosh,” I mutter to myself. “That guy is hot.”

“That guy’s my dad.” Noah says it like he’s said it a lot. “The ambassador.”

(p145)

Plot twists to spin the mind

I wasn’t expecting the big one. I truly wasn’t. I was so not expecting it that the whole reveal confused me and I had to re-read the section.

I wasn’t even really expecting some of the smaller twists. I got involved in the walkie-talkie action and the dripping subterranean pool conversations, never expecting my narrator could be so unreliable.

Had she been reliable, this book would have had a simple, yet solid plotline, with a few cool twists. As it is…

What can I say, I love it when a book surprises me!

The supporting cast

There was a fab collection of characters in this book, from tiny Rosie swinging from roof to roof, to the ominous Scarred Man, to the stern yet soft Ms Chancellor. They gave depth.

Do I believe that Noah can creep into America and spirit Grace off to a party in the middle of the night? Not really. But what fun to imagine he could.

 

The verdict?

This is a read well-suited to the younger teens. I didn’t feel it had the depth of voice that some YA has, that pulls me in and connects me to the MC, but it is also lacking sex, drugs and torture.

That’s not to say it’s light and rosy fluff. There is tension and rule-breaking fun, a light smattering of romance, murder and mental illness.

It’s a great all-round read, which explains why it won a WAYRBA last year!

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