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We All Fall Down

by Eric Walters

Will Fuller is a typical American teenager. He’s a decent student who dreams of starting a band, has a crush on a girl in his history class, and doesn’t see much of his dad, a high-powered executive who spends more time at the office than at home. As We All Fall Down, the new novel from prolific Mississauga writer Eric Walters, opens, Will is less than excited about spending a full day at his father’s workplace, observing him in action.

His father’s office? On the 85th floor of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. The date of Will’s visit? Sept. 11, 2001.
It takes a certain boldness to use one of the most significant historical events in recent memory in one’s fiction; few writers have taken on 9/11 directly. Walters acquits himself well, although We All Fall Down is not without its faults.

Walters captures the first-person perspective on the events inside the WTC with realistic, frightening, and heartbreaking directness. Much occurs just outside of the novel’s scope, and Walters depends on the reader’s awareness of future events for dramatic impact (as when, for example, Will meets his best friend’s father, a firefighter, climbing the stairs up the tower as Will and his father flee).

We All Fall Down will be a useful teaching tool for opening discussion in a number of areas. One can therefore overlook the pedantic quality that creeps into Walters’ text, a propensity for info-dumping and lengthy explanations couched as dialogue on such matters as Islamic fundamentalism and the construction and design of the WTC towers.

Interestingly, Walters’ use of the 9/11 attacks is both the novel’s biggest liability and its greatest strength. It would be difficult for the emotional reconciliation between a teenaged boy and his father to even register against the scope of the events of that day, and this strand of We All Fall Down falls flat. Walters, however, manages to capture the tenor of that day and builds on our common knowledge of the events to create a novel that is compelling and emotionally wringing.