I was so excited to read We All Fall Down by Rose Szabo after reading an excerpt from the book. Sadly, it ended up being largely disappointing as a whole.
The novel is about a small, magical town called River City. Kings and Maidens bring magic to the city, but after the previous maiden dies and the king falls into madness, the town is slowly losing its magic, and its identity. The book follows numerous characters who all have a part to play in the cycle of Kings and Maidens.
I’ll start off with the features of the book I enjoyed. I know there are some reviews on this book that complain about the gender pronouns for one of the characters, Jesse. While I agree that the switching up of pronouns was a little confusing, I’m guessing Szabo did this intentionally to show that Jesse is gender fluid and/or discovering their gender identity. So, in the end, I actually appreciated this aspect of the novel because it gives readers a window into an experience they might not be familiar with.
That being said, there wasn’t much else I liked about We All Fall Down. The story basically lacked a plot, and felt extremely disjointed. The multiple POVs were not executed well, and by the end of the novel, it truly felt as if nothing really happened.
Furthermore, there is an incident in the novel where a Black man is falsely accused of a crime, and I’m not entirely comfortable with this. The author addresses instances of racism at some points throughout the book, but the character who accused the man never showed much remorse and other characters in the novel acted as though this was normal and okay. I can’t entirely put my finger on what felt wrong… I know this is a fictitious book, but I felt disturbed by this aspect of the novel.
Finally, there was another character who used she/her pronouns, and when people misgendered her, she never corrected them. This isn’t a huge problem, but the main character that originally misgendered her became angry when she found out that this character was a woman. Again, this was another aspect of the novel that just made me feel awkward and uneasy.
Overall, I was not a fan of We All Fall Down. I thought the premise of the novel was compelling, but the execution was extremely lacking, and there were some problematic aspects of the novel that were very disconcerting.