All the Walls of Belfast

All the Walls of Belfast
Publisher Name
Turner Publishing
Age Group
Published Date
March 12, 2019
ISBN Number
The Carnival at Bray meets West Side Story in Sarah Carlson’s powerful YA debut; set in post-conflict Belfast (Northern Ireland), alternating between two teenagers, both trying to understand their past and preserve their future. Seventeen-year-olds, Fiona and Danny must choose between their dreams and the people they aspire to be.

Fiona and Danny were born in the same hospital. Fiona’s mom fled with her to the United States when she was two, but, fourteen years after the Troubles ended, a forty-foot-tall peace wall still separates her dad’s Catholic neighborhood from Danny’s Protestant neighborhood.

After chance brings Fiona and Danny together, their love of the band Fading Stars, big dreams, and desire to run away from their families unites them. Danny and Fiona must help one another overcome the burden of their parents’ pasts. But one ugly truth might shatter what they have…

Editor review

1 review
engaging Romeo and Juliet style romance
Overall rating
Writing Style
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Editing/Design Quality
Nearly a modern day retelling of Romeo and Juliet in the Northern Ireland past the Troubles, ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST follows two teens from opposing sides in alternating points-of-view. Fiona was born in Northern Ireland but left with her mother when she was only two years old. She has never known her father, but she is now returning to meet him and her two stepbrothers. As such, she is really American through and through, but she wants to connect to her Northern Irish roots.

Danny is a protestant in Northern Ireland whose mother died during the Troubles. He lives with his abusive father and dreams of a better life. He wants to maybe be a nurse in the military, but with poverty and family problems facing him, this may be a challenge.

Fiona soon finds out that her father was actually a fairly big player in the IRA and she is so shocked and alarmed that she is ready to leave. It is when she is leaving that she runs into Danny, and then her stepbrothers convince her to stay. The echoes of the Troubles are still felt throughout, and thus, any relationship between their sides is still frowned upon.

Without much familiarity of the Troubles, I needed to google some of the background to really understand what was going on in this book. I would recommend the same if you are also not too familiar. The book assumes a lot of background knowledge that I did not have.

In terms of the romance, it was cute, but there is a lot going on in the book- there are the echoes of the Troubles, abusive parent (Danny and Finn), and family complications (with the reuniting after so long), that make the book seem too short. I would have liked to simplify some of the stories to be able to focus on some in more detail or add volume to really explore the complexity here more. However, as-is, it is a fast read which also has some benefits.

I was also mildly concerned about the unaddressed sexism/sexual harassment that occurs in places through casual discussions/descriptions and I would have liked to see this addressed more/have Danny be a little more cognizant of himself. However, this was relatively minor and could have been a lot worse.

Overall, it's an engaging Romeo and Juliet style romance that moves quickly and features a new political context (i.e. not many books there) of that in Northern Ireland. Recommend for people who enjoy YA contemporary romance with family conflicts and change.
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