All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)
By: Ally Carter
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: January 20th, 2015
Format: Kindle E-Book
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 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.
I was first introduced to Ally Carter’s writing through Cammie and the Gallagher Girls series–which are wonderful, but on the ‘brain candy’ shelf. I opened All Fall Down expecting a similarly goofy story. Instead, however, I got an insanely twisted story that’s not QUITE a spy story, but close enough to satisfy every craving I had for an adventure story.
I firstly love the setting and the automatic tension there. Having lived in a capital city for a while (Berlin) I always thought it was funny that the embassies were all crammed so closely together. Ally Carter shares my view, and goes a step further by pointing out all of the really strange loopholes that exist with the embassies and the very diplomatic dance done by ambassadors. It’s this precarious world that Grace barrels into, determined to figure out who killed her mother.
What really drives the book and makes it awesome is Grace. She’s a total badass who loves climbing around and has some unofficial military training from her dad and brother. She’s wild, reckless and utterly determined to achieve her goals. But at the same time, she’s emotionally scarred and probably has PTSD from seeing her mother murdered. Her mental situation is not the most stable throughout the book, which puts a lot of seemingly ordinary situations off-kilter. But at the same time, I loved that Ally Carter took the time to make a character who was realistically scarred from a situation which would realistically beget scarring. There’s only a hint of the Batman-vigilante stuff. From what I understand of PTSD and panic attacks, Grace’s reactions to events are very realistic. The people around her also react realistically–they do their best to understand and support her, but they have moments of doubt about her sanity.
That being said, Grace is not the most reliable of narrators. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, because it added tension and also forced you to doubt Grace and her actions at least a little bit. It also made you suspicious of a lot of other characters, because the way that Grace remembered past events was not the way that anyone else remembered past events. It was sometimes frustrating, and it led for a really crazy plot twist towards the end of the book, but overall I loved the use of an unreliable narrator.
I also adored the relationships present in the book. There’s a whole group of international/Embassy Row kids who Grace befriends, and they’re all awesome in different ways. I loved the interaction between them as well, and how they eventually bond together to create some crazy pseudo-spy group. There’s Noah, who decides he’s going to become Grace’s best friend, and his queen-bee twin sister Lila. Megan was a fantastic character–she seemed like a nobody at the beginning, but at the end it’s revealed she’s probably a Gallagher Girl (I’m waiting for a spinoff now, Ally!). There’s Alexei, the handsome Russian kid who used to be Grace’s brother’s best friend, and Rosie, the German girl who is a truly fantastic little spy kid. In a lot of ways they’re a microcosm of Embassy Row, but they’re also a bunch of teenagers who like sneaking onto the grounds of the abandoned embassy and hanging out.
At first I thought that Ally Carter was going to set things up in a really sickening love triangle, but she subverted that beautifully. Noah’s puppy-dog affection turned out to be just friendly, and the other love interest, Alexei, never quite manages to connect with Grace (mostly because of very tense US-Russian relations, and the general frowning on of friendliness between the children of the different diplomats). I do hope he comes back, though, because I really liked him and I wished that he and Grace had connected.
Like I mentioned, there’s a massive plot twist. You have this villain set up who even Grace mentions is just Bond-esque. There are secret tunnels around the city, the abandoned Iran embassy being used as a creepy Bond-esque meeting place, and so on. Plus, there’s all the tension because Grace is running around and interfering in actual political peacekeeping events, like the G8 summit and the Diplomat Ball and so on. But then the Bond-esque villain turns out not quite to be as expected…as do several other characters. The stage is also brilliantly set for a sequel–I have SO MANY questions, and am really excited to see what Grace becomes in the course of the next book.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.