Title: All Fall Down
Author: Ally Carter
Nutshell: Grace should probably be your typical Army brat. She gets into scrapes, has moved more than a dozen times, and knows way more than the average team about international relations. Instead, Grace is crazy. Her mother died in a fire three years ago, and her mind cracked from the trauma. Now, living with her grandfather in the US embassy to Adria, she is haunted by visions of her mother and surrounded by people who love and support her.
Or is she? You see, Grace doesn’t remember a store fire, tragic but accidental. Grace remembers a bomb. And a man with a gun. A man with a scar. A man that everyone claims does not exist.
A man Grace just saw in the streets of Adria.
While everyone around her tells her that she’s crazy, Grace must face her fears and her nightmares to stop her mother’s murderer from killing again.
Readalikes: The Gallagher Girls Series by (surprise!) Ally Carter. The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz.
Ally Carter is a queen of the spy thriller. Here she’s doing what she’s done in the Gallagher Girls series and adding a few more delicious layers of intrigue and supsense. Chocolatey, chocolatey suspense. What? That’s not a good metaphor?
We’re not just in a fancy school where danger can creep in through the cracks in All Fall Down. We’re on Embassy Row, a place fraught with more underlying tension than a high school lunch room. It’s almost exactly like a high school lunch room with nuclear launch codes.
Grace is, of course, not a competent, smooth, well-trained spy. She’s a klutz. And a loudmouth. Trust me, it’s way more fun this way. Instead of insinuating herself into whatever information she needs, she kicks down the door with her sturdy combat boots and demands it. Watching the resulting fallout is marvelously anxious.
The character mix in this book is gloriously chaotic. Each one is a complete person with goals and hopes and dreams and intentions that overlap and spill together, leading to hilarious banter and plot-driving conflict.
Embassy Row is a setting that very nearly acts. Every small thing that happens in it has worldwide ramifications, even if those things happened because a teenager got caught in a stray breeze. It’s a keep-on-your-toes kind of place.
But the piece de resistance is Ms. Carter’s writing of Grace’s inner turmoil. Everyone believes she is crazy. Certainly enough doctors have prescribed enough medications to help with her crazy. You want to believe that she’s not, of course. Catching a murderer seems important. But listen:
You are never sure that Grace isn’t actually crazy.