Title: All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)
Author: Ally Carter
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication date: January 20, 2015
I bought this book right after it came out because of some great reviews from friends – but I only just got around to reading it! Once I started it, I finished in less than a day, because it was completely not what I expected but was instead way better.
First, a quick synopsis from Ally Carter’s website:
Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:
1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer 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 an 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 all stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.
Disclaimer: I’ve never read anything else by Ally Carter, but All Fall Down absolutely blew me away. The story is set up so that Grace, the protagonist, returns to a place called “Embassy Row,” where all the foreign embassies in the country of Valencia sit side-by-side and tensions between neighbors are – as you may imagine – high. The book started out slowly as Carter unravels who Grace is (army brat, granddaughter of the American ambassador, PTSD sufferer after she witnessed her mother’s murder at the age of thirteen) and how Embassy Row is set up, but once it gets into the action, it never slows down again. Although all of her relatives and friends keep telling her that her mother’s death in her bookstore fire was an accident, Grace is adamant that a man with a scarred face shot her mother in front of her. When she sees the same man in Valencia – as a close companion to the prime minister, no less – she sets off on a mission to get revenge and ensure that no one else faces the same fate as her mother.
I absolutely loved all of the characterization. Grace is a girl who tries so hard to be independent and has a difficult time realizing when she needs to rely on her friends for support. Likewise, her newfound friends on Embassy Row (and some old friends as well) all have detailed personalities that lack any visible stereotyping. Plus, there’s hints of romance with a few different characters but romance definitely isn’t the #1 priority in the novel – political intrigue and character development are.
I found myself fist-pumping and cheering aloud for the characters more than once, which is probably embarrassing. But I couldn’t believe how into the novel I got, and the twist ending completely threw me for a loop in the end. Yet while there is a definite resolution to one major mystery in the book, the ending is a clear cliffhanger for a continuation of the series, which I’m really looking forward to.
The one thing that bothered me was that, looking back, I can see that Grace wasn’t asking herself the kinds of questions that she really needed to be asking (you’ll understand if you read the book). So in that way, I think that her POV as the narrator was slightly unreliable in retrospect, which made me feel just a teeny, tiny bit cheated. That being said, I only came to that conclusion afterwards – while reading, I had no complaints, and I also (reluctantly) see why that particular avenue was necessary in order to make the book work.
But overall, if you like thrillers, mysteries, female characters that are strong as hell, or books that will make you physically shout while reading them, you should add All Fall Down to your future reading list. If you’ve read it, let me know what you think in the comments below!
5 out of 5 stars.