Robert Cormier:
The books of Robert Cormier are very popular among teenage readers because they deal with questions which are relevant for their lives and help them to get a better understanding of their own problems.
Robert Cormier was born in 1925 and lived in Massachusetts, USA. During his time at school he was praised for his poetry. When he was nineteen, his first short story got published, when one of his college teachers sent it to a national magazine without his knowledge.
In the beginning of his writing career he wrote radio commercials and went on to a very well done journalist. After his first successful publication of a novel for teenagers, “The Chocolate war”, in 1975, he started to write full-time. Other books of him are “I Am the Cheese” and “After the First Death”.
He’s novels are and were well sold because he knows to reflect the problems facing young people in modern society.
We All Fall Down was first published in USA in 1991.
Robert Cormier died in November 2000.

In the evening of April Fools’ Day the house of the Jerome’s get wrecked by 4 young teenagers. This incident leaves the youngest daughter of the family, Karen, in a coma. The only person who sees the boys at the trashing is the Avenger, who is waiting to take revenge on them. To the family this is a very problematic situation. The emotional state of them is very critical. Jane doesn’t want to meet her friends any longer and she becomes a “lone wolf”. After some time she falls in love with Buddy Walker, who is one of the trashers, what she doesn’t know. Buddy’s family situation is worse because his parents will get divorced. He cannot handle this new situation and so he starts to drink and gets more and more influenced by Harry Flowers, the leader of the trashers. The book focuses separately on the Jerome’s, the trashers and the Avenger. The storyline is divided in 3 parts. Till the end the parts are separated, and then they come together.
Many problems are addressed in the novel. Problems like vandalism, violence, alcoholism, murder, kidnapping, divorce and dysfunctional families.

Narrative style:

The author tells us the story by the view of 3 different persons. So we can see by turns through the eyes of the Avenger, Jane and Buddy. How they experience and feel their lives. But Cormier doesn’t use the perspective of the 1st person, but of the 3rd.

In the evening of April Fools’ Day four teenagers trash the house of the Jerome’s.
The 4 trashers are totally drunk and in this state they overturn furniture, smash picture tubes, spray-paint the walls and flood the bathrooms.
But fourteen-year-old Karen Jerome arrives at home early from a friend and surprises the thrashers. They leave behind a damage about 20 000 Dollars and Karen Jerome injured on the cellar floor.
The Avenger is the only person who watches the incident and he wants to take revenge on the trashers.
After Jane Jerome has found her sister the whole family comes together at the hospital. A police officer asks her dad questions as if he has any enemies. He doesn’t know any, but he tells him about small stuff that has happened as phone rings, nobody on the line or a dead squirrel in the mailbox.

At the same time the trashers are driving back from Burnside to Wickburg. The leader of the group is Harry Flowers. He’s a son of a prominent architect, but he likes to pretend to be a street kid from inner city, so he calls his friends bloods.
It was ones of Harry’s ideas to trash the house. The only order Harry has given to his friends before the thrashing was not to break any windows. The second member of the group is called Randy Pierce who is always following Harry around school and is trying to get his attention. He is overweight and often looks bewildered. Marty Sanders is the smaller version of Harry Flowers. He’s very thin and is always trying to be cool, but betrayed a sharp tongue.
Buddy thinks that they shouldn’t left the injured girl lying on the cellar floor and he doesn’t believe that that was only fun, like Harry always calls it.
Then the books tells us in a flashback how Buddy and Harry met for the first time.
Buddy first meets Harry at the mall, after he gets informed that his parents will get divorced. He cannot stand this and so he begins to hang out with Harry and his stooges and starts drinking. First he doesn’t like the taste of the stuff, but he likes the effect, the escape it provides. He also likes it to be in this group because they give him a sense of belonging to something.
The Avenger, who saw the trashers, is an eleven year old boy. The readers get to know that he is a very patient person and likes it to plan his acts of revenge. His only problem is his shyness, but only when he isn’t the Avenger, like at school. He’s a very good student, but gets always harassed by one of his classmates. So he plans to kill Vaughn Masterson. He observes him for several weeks afterwards he kills him with the revolver he has stolen from his grandfather.

One day after the trashing Jan’s friends Patti and Leslie visit the house. But Jane has no interest in them anymore, because the trashing has changed her. Everything has changed. Until the day before the trashing she used to love it to live in Arbor Lane. She and her family live there since her father’s transfer from Monument to Burnside. It’s a dream street like on old television reruns with neat houses, birth baths, people waving “hallo” to each other, family cars and kids.
Her brother Artie doesn’t like it to play in the playground; instead he often barricades himself in his room to play his video games
Not like other boys at his age who run people down or ride their bikes on the sidewalk.
On of the neighbours is Amos Dalton. He’s a kid, but he behaves like a prematurely middle aged man, because he has always a worried look on his face and is carrying library books with him.
The handy-man of the neighbourhood is Mickey Looney. He’s real name is Mickey Stalling, but everyone calls him Looney because he is sort of odd. He is short, plump, bald and wears often an old baseball cap. He has never been to university, but he is very smart and knows to fix things and everything about plants.

Jane takes the trashing very hard. She doesn’t feel safe at her home anymore, so she starts to flee the place. After school she visits Karen at the hospital and afterwards she often goes to the shopping mall in Wickburg, wandering around and doesn’t want to go home. She wants to separate herself from the rest of the family, because she doesn’t want that anyone comes too close. She feels emotionless, wants to cry out, but she’s always holding back.
The author once again changes the view and gives a flashback on the Avenger’s childhood to the reader. The reader gets informed that he killed his grandfather because he had questioned him about the stolen revolver. Once again the Avenger scot-free of a murder like with the killing of one of his classmates.
After the trashing he starts to go to the shopping mall every day, because he is looking for the trashers. He wants to take revenge on them, because he loves the Jerome family. In his childhood his mother had often punished him, so he thinks that he has to hurt the ones he loves, so he put a dead squirrel in the mailbox of the family.

Jane Jerome gets observed by Buddy Walker. Since the trashing he can’t stop thinking about her. After observing her about some weeks he has learned about her daily routine.
One day he trips and falls down at the mall. After this incident Jane speaks the first time to him and she feels empathy for him.
After some time they become a couple. Both feel very happy that they belong to each other. Sometimes Jane tries to tell Buddy about the trashing, but he always changes the subject. Another mystery about Buddy is that he always has some excuses when she wants him to meet her parents for not doing so.
He also picks her up at home seldom.
The only shadow in their relationship for Buddy is the trashing. His desire for booze has lessened since he has met her but he doesn’t stop drinking, because that enhances the happiness that Jane has brought to him.

After some time the police catches the ringleader of the trashing, because a neighbour, who has been on a business trip, has seen a car on the street that night and he has written down the plate number. Buddy gets frightened because he doesn’t trust in Harry, but he thinks that Buddy will double-cross his friends.

But the police can’t arrest Harry for breaking into the place, because he didn’t have to break into this house, because he had the key of the house.
Also he’s only 18 from a respectable family and has no previous arrests.
So his father agrees to restitution and everybody goes along. Harry tells the judge that the girl gave the key to him. That isn’t the truth because Jane had lost it, and he found it and followed her to her house.
Jane finds out about Buddy’s drinking habit. She is very shocked, but Buddy says that he doesn’t drink much. He just likes it to drink because it makes him feel better. But he promises her that he’ll stop drinking.
Karen wakes up of the coma, but she has forgotten how to talk, but the doctors promise that this will be only a temporary condition.
One day the Avenger sees Jane with one of the trashers at the mall. He liked her very much, but from that moment he hates Jane and he wants to kill her.
So he decoys her to an empty lot in the high grass where he ties her with a rope on a chair.
Pieces of a puzzle come together and we get to know that the Avenger and Mickey Stallings are the same person. He thinks that he’s the 11 year old Avenger and tells Jane about Buddy’s part in the trashing. He also says that he wants to kill her and the trashers. But Jane is able to convince him that he isn’t 11 years old because if he would really be eleven, he wouldn’t be looking at her breasts every time. Instead of killing her he takes suicide. After this incident Jane and her family go to the Monument Motel. Jane doesn’t inform Buddy about the kidnapping and so he doesn’t know what happened to her exactly and why she doesn’t call him. Back at Burnside again Jane winds up the relationship with Buddy soon.
Karen gets healthy again but she still isn’t able to remember what has happened in the night of the trashing.

Jane Jerome:
Before the trashing Jane was satisfied with her life, but the trashing has changed her. She and her family live in Arbor Lane since her father’s transfer from Monument to Burnside. She has two siblings: a two year old younger sister, Karen, and a younger brother called Artie. But she doesn’t feel older as Karen, because she Karen is very popular at school and has adjusted quickly to Burnside. She often has arguments with her sister, because Karen borrows often things without asking.
She’s a very communicative person and likes it to have a little talk with the neighbours, not like her sister, who is in a hurry every time. She has a good taste and is a good looking girl. She has a small nose and high cheekbones.

He is about 16 or 17 years old and goes to the Wickburg regional which is a huge high school with thousands of students. He’s often flunking lessons and it’s hard for him to keep a B average.
Since his parents told him and his sister that they will get divorced, because his father fell in love with a younger woman, he starts to drink.
Drinking gives him the bliss in his loneliness that takes over his sensibilities, he needs nobody especially does not need his parents.
Sometimes he also goes drunk to school.

Also it’s very hard for Buddy’s mother who works five days a week in downtown Wickburg as an executive secretary. Since his dad has left them he gets a weekly cheque about 25 dollars. Buddy thinks that his father isn’t his father any more. In foretimes his father had played with him and had taken him and Addy to the circus. Now his father has become a weekly cheque about 25 dollars. Once he wants to send the cheque back, but he needs it to finance his booze. He is too young to buy it by himself, so he has to arrange a homeless downtown wanderer called Crumbs. This man charges a flat rate of five dollars a bottle for his services, which doesn’t include the price of the booze itself.When the relationship between Jane and Buddy starts, he begins to change his life. He drinks less alcohol, and feels more responsible.

Harry Flowers:
He is one of the most popular guys at Wickburg Regional. But he is also the subject of rumours as drugs, drinking and wild times. At school he’s always surrounded by his friends, and never looks like being in a hurry.
He likes it to have fun, especially to do stupid things, when you’re drunk. He calls this Fun Times.
He’s the leader of the trashers and son of a prominent architect. Harry calls the other members of the group bloods and he likes it to pretend that he’s a street kid from inner city.

Mickey Stallings or The Avenger:
Mickey Stallings is a schizophrenic. He lives in two different worlds: the world of the Avenger and the world of Mickey Looney.

When he is the Avenger he’s eleven years old and has to depend on his bike because he’s too young to get a driving licence. His biggest problem is his shyness, so it’s very difficult for him to make friends. His hobby is to carry out acts of revenge. He has killed 2 persons, and gets away with.
By observing the Jerome family he has become part of it, and he has begun to love them.
The second world he’s living in is the world of Mickey Looney. In Arbor Lane Mickey Looney is a nickname for this gentle man who patted dogs and tousled the hair of small kids. He’s the neighbourhood’s handy-man and he’s performing odd jobs as shovelling snow or raking leaves. He’s 41 years old, but he looks ageless. He’s short, plump and bald. He wears often a faded baseball cap. He’s also really smart and knows to fix things.

Interpretation of the title:
There are different interpretations of the name of the book “We All Fall Down”
The first one is written in the book:
– That it is an old nursery rhyme. Kids sang it back in the olden days when the Black Plague was killing millions of people. People would get a rosy kind of rash and rub themselves with herbs and posies. Then they fell down and died.

And now my interpretations of the title:

  • Karen falls down the cellar stairs
  • The Jerome family falls psychically down
  • Especially Jane falls psychically down – she becomes a loner
  • Addy and Buddy fall down because of the impending divorce of their parents
  •  I think the author wants to show us, that we all can fall down. I mean the trashing, divorce or alcoholism. These themes aren’t fictional.

My personal opinion:
I liked the book very much because the story sounds very realistic. I don’t know if the trashing and all the other things happened in reality, but it could have happened. I think if you read this book and you have some similar problems it will probably help you to get a better understanding of your problems.
I think that the book probably wants to show us, that neither violence nor alcohol is able to solve any problems, it only makes everything worse. The Avenger and Buddy aren’t able to see that. The Avenger kills the people because he thinks that everything would get better. And Buddy tries to flee into alcoholism from the reality.

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