Cover of We All Fall Down, featuring four individuals in separate quadrants separated by a shield backed by crossed swords

About the Book

Title: We All Fall Down
Published: 2022

Cover Story: Sinners and Saints
BFF Charms: Yay x3, Natalie Imbruglia
Talky Talk: There Be Monsters
Bonus Factors: LGBTQ+ Representation, Magic?
Anti-Bonus Factor: Abuse
Relationship Status: More Than Friends

Content Warning: Although there aren’t direct examples of abuse in We All Fall Down, there are hints at past trauma that might be triggering for some readers. 

Cover Story: Sinners and Saints

Having read the book, I know who these folks are and how they relate to each other and the elements in their various quadrants. If I hadn’t read the book, though, I’d be totally drawn in by wanting to know more about each of them.

The Deal: 

If you need River City, it’s there for you. If you don’t, you might never know about it, as it exists completely separate from the rest of the United States and somewhat outside the realm of reality. The city used to be run by a king, whose relationship with his wife was vital to the existence of magic there. But a revolution led to the rise of the University, which is more focused on science and “helping” those people whom society calls monsters. 

But there’s change on the horizon for River City, thanks to a new king experimenting with magic, a Maiden discovering themselves, a hero doing all she can to deny what she is, and a monster who is nothing of the sort—even though none of them know the part they’re destined to play.

BFF Charm: Yay x3, Natalie Imbruglia

Yay BFF Charm

Three of the four main characters of We All Fall Down (Jesse, Jack, the nameless girl) are delightful individuals. They’re folks figuring out who they are—and in Jack’s situation, not realizing they’re lying to themselves about who they are—and magical, all, even if they’re not literally magic. I’d be honored to be friends with any of them, although it might be harder to break through Jack’s mental walls and the nameless girl’s mistrust of regular humans.

BFF charm with Natalie Imbruglia's face.

David, on the other hand, is someone I’d struggle to be friends with. At first, he seemed like a decent dude with more than a passing interest in magic. But then he changed. He got a taste of power and leaned a little too hard into it. I have hopes that he’ll course correct in the next book, but for now I’m being wary.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

The relationships in We All Fall Down are complicated. The couples all have a lot of things to figure out before they get to “secure” ‘ship territory. But I have hope that things are going to work out right, if not well, for everyone.

Talky Talk: There Be Monsters

In my review for Szabo’s debut novel, What Big Teeth, I described their writing as dream-like, “but not in the fuzzy, half-remembered sense; rather, Szabo’s writing is clear and concise, but the story itself seems to be set slightly aside from reality.” This description continues to fit the writing in We All Fall Down, which is set—literally—outside of “normal” reality while not in a separate fantasy world. It’s a fascinating idea that a city could be lurking just outside of our periphery, thanks to a conjunction of elements that makes it possible for magic to exist there, and only there. Szabo writes about the city as though they’ve been there, making it feel just that much more real than your standard fantasy city. And having read both of their novels now, I’d believe it.

(As an aside, this book reminded me a lot of the irreverence of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels and certain modern world fantasy vibes of my very favorite Dragon Age fanfiction, Heart-Eyes Emoji. Be warned—the fic’s not a complete work, and if you dive into it, you might find yourself in the same position I am, pining for a satisfying completion (heh).)

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+ Representation

Pride flag being waved in a parade

Most, if not all, of the four main characters in We All Fall Down are queer. Jack is a lesbian, Jesse is gender queer (quite literally; they can transform their body from male to female and stop in between), the nameless daughter is a woman (although she outwardly presents as a male). I’m not entirely sure of David’s sexuality, but he doesn’t seem to mind the attention of a variety of different people. And none of them are treated differently for the way they are, at least when it comes to their gender and sexuality. (There are other reasons they’re treated differently, however, so don’t think that it’s all sunshine and rainbows for this crew.) Although it has its fair share of societal issues, River City seems like a pretty great place, at least for the “normality” of queer culture there.

Bonus Factor: Magic?

Open book with moving pages in front of a glowing blue sphere and twinkle lights

River City is host to a variety of magical creatures and magic wielders, but it’s not clear if the magic there is the “out of nowhere” kind or due to a strange element or the physical (in the sense of physics) properties of energy in that particular place. The things people can do with the magic there are certainly fantastical—shooting fire from their hands; healing all sorts of ailments including severed limbs, etc.—and it’s interesting to think that there could be pockets of “magic” out there just waiting to be tapped into.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Abuse

Clenched fist pounding into a table

There’s an underlying uneasiness to We All Fall Down, in part caused by certain characters’ memories of past trauma. None of it is explained in graphic detail, but it’s clear that our heroes haven’t had the easiest of lives.

Relationship Status: More Than Friends

We had a strange first date, Book, but I’m glad we ot together. And after thinking about it for a couple of days, I think there’s some strong chemistry between us. Let’s see where this goes, OK?

Literary Matchmaking

What Big Teeth

Szabo’s debut novel is a bit more horror-leaning, but it’s also a fascinating and magical read.

The Boneless Mercies

April Genevieve Tucholke’s books are similarly magical with a dark edge.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)

The “coming together of disparate parts” elements of this book remind me of the same kind of elements in Leigh Bardugo’s excellent series.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. We All Fall Down is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.