Have you ever had someone recommended a book that does not look appealing at all, but they keep asking how you like it, so you have to read it; then you find out it’s really good? Susan at the Library has never let me down when it comes to book recommendations. Once when I was travelling she chose a book, wrapped it in plain paper and stuck a note on it to only open it once I was on the plane. I finished it before the plane landed.
This time I was looking for something engaging, but light. My brain seems to be full of stuff right now, so much of what I read, I can’t retain. Susan recommended “All Fall Down” by Ally Carter (2015). It’s the first of three in the Embassy Row series for Young Adults. I kept putting it off as it looked political, but finally picked it up, finished it in one afternoon, and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Carter set the story in Adria, a fictitious country in the Mediterranean, that reminds me a lot of Cyprus and Malta. Grace, the main character, arrives to live with her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Her mother was killed three years previously in a fire, and Grace has been struggling with her death ever since. Her father is stationed in a war zone, while her older brother is going to West Point, so Grace has nowhere else to go. She makes friends with some kids from other embassies but is still struggling to settle in when she sees a face in the crowd. It is the scar-faced man whom she believes murdered her mother.
She starts off on an adventure to track the scar-faced man, and her new friends are eager to help. They learn proper following tactics from a twelve-year-old, former gymnast from Germany. They gain information and gear through Megan, also American, whose mother is a spy. Noah, Grace’s self-proclaimed new best friend, provides support and man-power when tracking. These four struck me at different times as being unrealistic, yet so completely like teenagers. Would teens try to follow someone they thought was up to no good? Quite possibly, yes. Actually, the author made the tailing the suspect sound so real, that I wondered if I could try following someone, just for fun on an afternoon when I was bored. Then I remembered that this is called stalking and quashed the idea.
One aspect of the setting, a system of ancient tunnels that run beneath the city, is both highly engaging, helpful in forwarding the plot, and highly unrealistic in terms of embassy security. Their suspect disappears on occasion, after turning a corner, and the kids can’t figure out how he does it. During a rainstorm, Gracie notices where the water flows differently, and discovers one of the openings to the tunnels. Other openings are in the basements of embassies, which gets Grace into trouble.
The plot moves along in a fairly predictable pattern until it doesn’t. At some point in the book, I began to question Grace’s motives and conclusions, and suddenly found that I had no idea who the bad guy really was. The conclusion was unexpected, and the ending left a lot of questions unanswered. But I wanted to know those answers! As a result, I’ve placed holds on the next two books in the series. For me, that indicates a truly engaging book.
The ladies at the Library know their stuff and can often give really good recommendations. I think I might just rely on Susan to make all my future reading choices.