All Fall Down by Ally CarterAll Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) by Ally Carter

This is a suspenseful mystery novel taking place in Adria, a presumably European country with ancient roots but now in current times. Grace comes to live with her grandfather, who is the American ambassador in Adria. Embassy Row is the long strip of road that is lined with the embassies from many different countries. Grace’s “America” is next to Russia and Germany. The premise of the series is solving Grace’s mother’s mysterious death and life with the cast of teens from each embassy (because, of course, each embassy has teenage children.)

Grace hasn’t talked to her grandfather in three years because he hasn’t contacted her since she saw her mother die in a fire in the States at 13. Grace is the only one who thinks her mother was murdered. Grace saw her shot by a scarred man before the shop collapsed with fire. She has been to many doctors and therapists that have tried to convince her she has seen nothing. And she is sick of it. Her father and brother are working for the Army and we don’t really know this, but they seem to be sick of Grace’s “craziness” as is her grandfather.

Her brother asks his friend, Alexei, the Russian ambassador’s son to look after Grace, but Grace doesn’t want to be babysat. She also doesn’t want to be groomed to be her mother’s replacement. She’d rather find the scarred man and make him pay. And then there’s Noah, a boy who proclaims he is Grace’s best friend. When Grace sees the scarred man again, she and Noah work to uncover the secret of her mother’s death, all while shirking the watchful eyes of the grown-ups.

This is a kind of fun amateur spy novel with a unreliable narrator because of all her trauma. We’re still sympathetic to Grace, but her situation keeps on getting more twisted. This novel has a good sense of place and a real feel to Grace’s flashbacks (although those get a little muddled with the current time towards the end).

I was mad that the ending didn’t reveal why Grace’s mother was killed, and that some people’s real jobs are still unknown. This part was attempting to be a cliffhanger, which it kind of is, but it will most likely just make the readers angry. I will still be picking up the sequel though. I liked Grace’s posse slowly growing from unlikely characters and how everyone is intertwined.

Grace is brooding and flawed, which adds intrigue and a bit of sympathy. The dialogue and psychology of the plot are very realistic. And the fast-paced, plot-driven novel will keep teen readers on their feet as Grace traverses the menacing city in and beyond Embassy Row.