Publisher: Orchard Books.
Paperback, 320 pages.
Release date: February 5th 2015.
Rating: 4½ out of 5.
Reviewed by: Arianne.
Grace 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.
Ally Carter is a name synonymous with thrilling, sophisticated stories which deal in danger as well as romance, and All Fall Down more than lives up to expectation. This book will appeal to Carter’s long-time fans, but as the first in a brand-new series, it’s also perfect for any fan of well-written, action-packed YA fiction, from We Were Liars by E. Lockhart to The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
Set in the fictional European nation of Adria (think the flashy price tag and old-school glamour of Monaco, but with the rich history of Italy and the ancient catacombs of Paris) this is a book with serious credentials and all the ingredients needed for a great read: engaging characters, high stakes, thrilling chases, and a mystery that stretches far deeper than anyone could have realized. Of course, with such a big name author, it’s impossible not see the hallmarks of Carter’s innate style here and there; the luxurious setting, the plush prose, the mysterious bad boy, the confident good guy best friend — yet one of the best things about this book is how truly unpredictable, surprisingly and original it feels.
Yet even against the background of privileged embassy life, there are fantastic flashes of humour and of course, plenty of opportunities for reckless heroine Grace to cause international diplomatic incidents. Readers will also soon realize that the seemingly invincible Grace is a notoriously unreliable narrator. I loved this aspect of Grace’s character. It’s the pin that holds the entire story together, and she’s playing a dangerous game.
There are two male leads in this book, but let me be clear: there's no love triangle in sight (yet). Outgoing extrovert Noah is Grace’s self-appointed new best friend, but even more than that, he’s a fantastic mixture of loyalty and complexity, showing that while he’s genuine and has a good heart, he’s not immune from the hurt Grace is capable of causing. Alexei is in many ways Noah’s antithesis, but that doesn’t mean he cares for Grace any less. He’s the best friend of Grace’s older brother, and has promised to look out for her, but this is one guy with his heart locked up tight. There’s so much chemistry between Grace and Alexei, but I liked that he kept his word — so many YA heartthrobs try and fail to ‘stay away’ from the leading character, but Grace and Alexei’s relationship just oozes slow-burn; it’s just enough to keep the reader rooting for them, but the best is definitely yet to come.
In fact, one of my only issues with the book was that it felt a little too much like a series opener for me. Much of All Fall Down is spent working through Grace’s own issues, clearing the way for her to move on with her life, and while there’s plenty of action and conflict, I almost feel like the second book will be where the real adventure begins. I wasn’t a huge fan of the flashback sequences, and I would have liked to have had a more solid, detailed ending. Grace’s father and brother are mentioned but not seen here, so I’d love for them to have a bigger role to play in the next book, too.
In short: I picked up this book for the premise, but I kept reading for the plot. Stylish, cinematic and packed with action, this book features great characters and great writing. Definitely worth reading.