CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 15 . . . . March 31, 2006
It is September 10th, 2001, and tomorrow Will Fuller will be spending the day with his father for a school assignment. The Vice President of an international trading company, John Fuller works in an office on the 88th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. What begins as a routine day with an early morning train ride into the city and a guided tour on the observation deck becomes an inevitable nightmare when a plane hits first the North Tower and then another strikes the South Tower of the World Trade Centre.
While all readers will be aware of the chain of events that occurred on the morning of September 11th, 2001, We All Fall Down is, nevertheless, a gripping read from start to finish. After the North Tower is hit at 8:46 a.m., Will's father attempts to evacuate all the offices on his floor. At 9:03 a.m., a second plane hits the South Tower roughly ten floors below them, and they realize (through the help of CNN) that this disaster was no accident. Rather than wait for firefighters to reach their floor, Will and John decide to take the stairs down. They must pass through floors that have been destroyed by the plane crash and the resulting fire. Along the way, they save an injured Chinese woman named Ting, carrying her rather heroically down the remaining flights of stairs. They make it to the lobby just before 10:00 a.m. John stays with Ting while Will goes outside to call his mother. Shortly thereafter the South Tower collapses, but miraculously all three survive.
We All Fall Down is a very American novel to be written by a Canadian author, but Walters should be given credit because, while many non-fiction books have appeared in the years following 9/11, there are very few works of fiction for teens on the subject. Perhaps being Canadian gives Walters the virtue of perspective regarding that day, as apart from one conversation between Will and his father about the United States as a true world power and Muslim extremists, it is a relatively apolitical novel. Regardless of nationality, everyone who watched the events of September 11th, 2001 unfold on television was affected by the images burned into their minds. Will sees two people jumping from the windows of the other tower; indeed this is just one picture of many from that day that shocked people around the world.
Walters has had continued success in writing books that are relevant right now, and today's teens will strongly identify with Will's story. This style of writing can be seen in many of his other 38 novels, including his second most recent book, Shattered, about the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He is skilled at taking snapshots of ordinary, everyday situations. But while September 11th, 2001 was a day that was far from ordinary, We All Fall Down is still a "day in the life" book that will similarly resonate with readers. Much of the book's action takes place in under two hours, mostly in the terrifying walk down the stairs.
One downside of Walters' ability to produce books quickly is that, while the stories themselves may be of high interest, character development often suffers. Will is quite similar to Ian, the protagonist of Shattered, as is the framing of events: both novels begin in a high school social studies class with a savvy teacher. However, Walters may purposefully under-develop characters so teens can identify with them in an "Everyman" way. We All Fall Down will likely be well received by teens as the terror of September 11th, 2001 is still fresh in their minds.
Jen Waters is the Teen Services Librarian at the Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.