Review: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

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All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Release Date: January 2015
Publisher: Scholastic
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 320
Source: Bought
Series: Embassy Row #1

Summary (from book jacket): 
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 stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

My Review:

All Fall Down had a lot to live up to, what with being the new series from the master of YA intrigue, Ally Carter, and for me it fell a little short. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it immensely, it’s just that it didn’t have that un-put-downable quality that Carter’s other two series started off with. It is very hard for me to not compare Embassy Row to Gallagher Girls and Heist Society, but it is its own story and should be treated as such.

Background stories are very important to a new series, but when more than half of the short book is nothing but background information it doesn’t exactly grab the reader’s attention. All Fall Down felt like a prequel novel. It didn’t truly grab my attention until the story stopped being about what happened in Grace’s past and focused on what she was going to do about her situation in the present. That said, however, it did end with the same amazing, when-does-the-next-one-come-out kind of cliffhanger that Carter is known for. This above all gives me hope that Embassy Row book two will be the kind of Ally Carter book I know and love.

I think the most exciting part of this new series is the setting of Embassy Row. Grace lives in the American Embassy of the fictional city Adria in Valancia. Because of this unique setting most of Grace’s friends are not American, Alexei is Russian, Rosie is German, and Noah is half Israeli, half Brazilian. Everyone has to be careful of where they go, what they say, and who they say it to because on Embassy Row anything could be the spark that lights the flame of war. Unfortunately, Carter does not really elaborate on how her fictional country of Valancia fits into the World. As an American reader I understand why an American diplomat’s granddaughter should not cross Russia or step foot in Iran, but it would be helpful to know Valancia’s position in the World. Some more world building is needed for me to really care about the politics Carter is trying to get readers invested in.

Grace, the main character, also provides a slight problem for me. I think Carter has spoiled her readers with expecting her books to contain badass, intellectual, witty, caring female protagonist. So when Grace spends the entire novel trying to prove to both her family and friends as well as the reader that she is not crazy it was a big letdown. Everything she did screamed, not crazy exactly, but not alright mentally either. I have come to expect Carter’s characters to rise above tragedy and betrayal in extraordinary ways. I feel bad for Grace, but I do not feel the overwhelming desire to see her to succeed. I am not very attached to her as a character yet and I’m hoping that throughout the series she will become more likable after the events that unfolded in the last few chapters of All Fall Down.