Release: January 20, 2015
Series: Embassy Row, #1
Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:I love everything about Ally Carter's writing. Everything. Her characters are always dynamic and memorable; her plots always pop with surprise; and she always gets friendships, romances, and families just right. But above all else, I love her stories' settings, her talent for taking realistic-yet-unlikely worlds and making them believable. She did it in Gallagher Girls with a school for spies and in Heist Society with various thieving hotspots around the world. And she does it again in her newest series, bringing the world of international relations to life.
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 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.
By the first page of All Fall Down, I was enthralled with Embassy Row. As someone who aches to travel everywhere, the idea of living in a cluster of embassies from around the world fascinates me, and Carter provides plenty of opportunities for living vicariously through her characters. Readers get glimpses into conversations between diplomats and royalty, and—even better—plenty of descriptions of Embassy Row's aesthetics and atmosphere. This story may be set in the fictional country of Adria, but every scene feels vividly, wonderfully real.
As much as I loved All Fall Down's setting, though, what truly sets this book apart from Carter's other books are the characters. Leading the cast is Grace, who is one of the most complexly unreliable narrators I have encountered in a long while. Ever since witnessing her mother's death three years ago, she has been desperately searching for the murderer and trying to deal with the experience, all of which has left her mentally fragile. I cannot say more for fear of spoilers, but trust me; fans of untrustworthy characters will love Grace.
Another phenomenal aspect of All Fall Down's characters is their strong feminist vibe. Along with her newfound friends Megan and Rosie, Grace forms a crew of characters who absolutely exude girl power. Each character has a reason not to be taken seriously—Grace is thought to be mentally unbalanced; Megan is a pretty, popular girl, all glitter and pink manicures; and Rosie is only twelve. Even Grace herself discounts the other two at the beginning if the book, writing Megan off as a vapid airhead and considering Rosie to be an inexperienced child. But as they join forces, aiming to help Grace catch her mother's killer, readers see how truly amazing each character is: Megan is a genius hacker, Rosie is a master of surveillance, and Grace has the determination required to keep the group together. Working with an equally-talented male best friend, these three girls exceed the teenage girl empowerment I have come to expect from Carter.
My only minor complaint about All Fall Down is the plot twist at the end, a huge reveal meant to make readers look back on the story in a different light. However, while the twist is not completely obvious, I did feel a sliver of suspicion earlier on in the story than I would have liked. I would never call Grace's story predictable, but given my ridiculously high expectations for Carter's plots, I wish I had been a bit more surprised at the ending.
Still, it would be a crime—not to mention impossible—for me ever to end a review of an Ally Carter book on a negative note. Despite my ever-so-slight disappointment with the ending, the rest of the plot features more than enough smaller surprises to keep any reader invested. And combined with the setting, characters, and a barely-budding romance that never overtakes the main storyline, the plot creates another winning book from Carter. All Fall Down has further secured Carter's position as one of my all-time favorite writers—as if her status were in danger of slipping—and I do not know how I can possibly wait until January for the next installment in this series.