In a near-future New York City in which both global warming and a tremendous economic divide are making the city unlivable for many, a huge superstorm hits leaving behind only those those who had nowhere else to go and no way to get out.
Here Makayla, a 24-year-old woman who works at the convenience store chain that's overtaken the city, and Jesse, an 18-year-old genderqueer anarchist punk who lives in an abandoned IRT station in the Bronx, and an unnamed, mysterious street artist who paints the suffering of those left behind into the world's consciousness, all struggle to rebuild their lives in a city that has left them for dead. When they carve out a small space of reprieve from an abandoned luxury condo, it is only a matter of time before those who own the building come back to claim what is theirs.
All City is more than a novel, it's a foreshadowing of a world to come.
ALEX DIFRANCESCO is a writer of fiction and nonfiction whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Tin House, Brevity, and more. They are a 2017 winner of Sundress Academy for the Arts' OutSpoken Competition, and were a finalist in Cosmonauts Avenue’s Inaugural Nonfiction Prize. They have recently moved to Ohio, where they are still trying to wrap their head around “Sweetest Day.”
When this novel begins, a storm is coming to New York, one bad enough that most of the people with resources have left to hole up in their "other homes," but it's New York and there are plenty who don't think any storm can really destroy the city. Superstorm Bernice hits, the waters travel farther than people expected, and don't recede. All of the sudden nobody is completely prepared to deal with the situation, and even though water is everywhere, you know the saying, not a drop to drink. And people with resources are not necessarily making humanitarian or ethical decisions, so violence and danger abound.
The story has alternating viewpoints, which is something I usually like, but there were some places where I felt it muddied the waters a little bit. I was most invested in the first character introduced - Makayla. There is a fair amount of diverse representation in this novel (racial, gender, sexuality, financial.) I like how the homeless characters are more prepared with the skills to survive in this kind of situation, ironic since their homelessness has at times been caused by the increasing gentrification of areas they can no longer afford. While we get some hints of the community that is being built moving forward, I'd actually like to see the next part of the story. I've always been more into the post than the apocalypse.
One more note - this could take place in the same universe as Severance, even if the disasters are slightly different.
I received a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss. It came out June 18th, 2019.
In Alex Difrancesco's All City, we're thrust into a near-future NYC that's blasted by Superstorm Bernice. In the leadup, the wealthy residents have decided to duck and run, hightailing it out of the city to the safety of places futher inland while the lower class citizens buckle down in an effort to ride out the storm. Soon, the city becomes flooded and many of the homes and storefronts are damaged beyond repair.
In the storm's aftermath, we follow three groups of people as they face dimishing food supplies and set out in search of someplace new to call home. The book is broken out into three narratives. First we have Makayla's, who had holed up with her boyfriend Jaden. She and Jaden catch a boat out to an emergency shelter but find the conditions there worse than where they came from so they, along with a young abandoned latino boy they take their under their wing, strike out for better digs, which they find in a deserted highrise.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to Jesse, a homeless queerpunk who was hiding out in an abandoned subway station with their trans girlfriend Lux, and best friends Jose and Sebastian. They were making things work until Lux is brutally stabbed in a street fight and Sebastian suddenly becomes gravely ill, and they are forced to step out in search of meds. After hearing about the sudden appearance of a pop-up community in the heart of Brooklyn, they begin to make their way towards it.
And then there's Evann, who is one of the toasty warm richies, riding out the storm at her father's place with her dog, while pining the loss of her art collection, which was all but destroyed by Bernice's flooding.
As is typical with all multi-narrative novels, we follow these three fractions as they inch closer and closer to one another until they converge in the penultimate showdown of the classes as the rich attempt to take back their city.
There's so much to digest here as Difrancesco witholds no punches - from climate control to queerness, predjudice against POC to economic imbalance, to rape and what it takes to survive in a world where humanity is left completely on their own, when our usual laws no longer apply.
Devastating and delirious, All City is on pace to be one the best cli-fi, sci-fi, genderqueer dystopias of the year. It's a warning, of what we're trending to become if we don't check ourselves right the fuck now. It's screaming in our face. The only question is, are we listening?
Ok, so we all know what YA fiction is. Ubiquitous and very popular genre targeting younger audience, aspirationally referred to as adults, albeit young. Apparently there’s also something like NA, new adult. Presumably for those freshly out of their teens, brains allegedly properly formed, but not quite all there yet. So NA by definition ought to be marginally more sophisticated than YA and featured marginally older characters. So it can technically pass for proper adult fiction. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how this book slipped by my fairly strict selecting process. Instead of a convenient NA label, which would help me avoid it, much like Netgalley does with its books, this one was just lounging on library website with no warning and I was lured in by a promise of a fresh dystopian book. And yes, I’m well aware that there are plenty of books out there featuring young characters that are very much suited for adults, but this one wasn’t quite it. It had all the things I’ve come to associate with YA genre (angst, moral oversimplifications, a certain scarcity of maturity in narrative and characters and message), but ever so slightly aged up. Then again had we not been told explicitly that these characters are in their early 20s, you never would have guessed. All City is populated by all kids. And subsequently just not that interesting for an adult to read. It is a dystopia though, the advertising got that right. Set in a not too distant future in NYC where somehow the economic divide has become ever greater than it already is, after the rising water levels (everyone’s been so determinedly ignoring in present day) have culminated in something close to a great flood, this is a tale of the city’s survivors. The stragglers, those stuck in their circumstances by poverty, are forced to make do in a radically changed metropolis. The narrative shifts between the group of mostly local kids (oh so sorry, new adults) who build something like a commune in one of the abandoned buildings, this features a variety of ethnic minorities and gendercomplicated individuals, because, you know, this novel is so hip and woke, and just for a contrast there’s a daddy’s precious princess sort of girl’s perspective thrown in. Because NA fiction seems to have all the subtlety of YA, which is to say almost none whatsoever. And thus subtlety free this novel is essentially a delivery method system for its message, which appears to be on the evils of gentrification and unevenness of wealth and resource distribution and so on. All socioeconomic travesties that a different book might have had a field day with and this one…well, whatever the junior version of field day is. Maybe it says more about the author’s own youth and perspective or maybe it is meant for younger adults, but sold otherwise for pecuniary reasons. Who knows. But for me it ended up a mostly disappointing read. And I love a good dystopia. But this was just…in art jargon (and this is somewhat appropriate since the novel heavily featured a mysterious Banksy style artist who does socially conscious murals) this was all prime colors and broad strokes. It wasn’t a terrible book by any means, it tried its best to entertain, though its best efforts got severely overwhelmed by its desire to deliver a message. It even tried to invent its own lingo, albeit not especially original. It literally took the horrid modern trend of abbreviating words that need no abbreviations and went the distance with it. Tots adorbs, right. So anyway, a perfectly readable book meant for either younger audience or those odd (regressing?) adults who enjoy that sort of thing…with a heavyhanded moral and some dystopian survival fun. It did have the decency to read quickly. But much like youth is proverbially wasted on the young…this might be a waste of an effort for someone looking for a serious dystopian tale or, at this rate, a future weather forecast. And NYC is still a terrible place to live, however glamped up or powerwashed by killer waves. The description proclaims this to be more than a novel...that's very ambitious, auspicious, aspirational. And it might have gotten to hit those goals in a different world, with different characters and possibly a different author. But it's difficult to talk prescience with kids around.
Thanks to Edelweiss for the e-ARC! I’d put this one at 4.5 stars
One city, storm and the aftermath, three points of view. Makayla, made homeless by the storm, but the gentrification of her neighborhood was going to drive her out soon anyhow. Evann, too sheltered and ignorant in her own little bubble to realize that not everyone can ride out the storm in their other house. Jesse, already homeless but living rough with wily friends leaves them more prepared for the storm than most. The storm hits, harder than any before and each of these people is left to deal with the aftermath using whatever resources they can scrounge or find.
The only science-fiction bit of this is the setting – near future NYC with a slang a touch different than now and a few inconsequential bits of technology. The escalating storms are a reality, and if the location were New Orleans this could easily be a Katrina story.
I liked how some plot threads were left a bit messy, especially those dealing with characters met along the way. In a situation like that someone might never know the end of another person’s story. The interplay and juxtaposition of how a disaster and the stress of day to day survival brings out the best and worst in people was also well done. Come for the apocalyptic storm taking out NYC, stay for the heart and humanity of people from all walks of life banding together to help each other get through it and build a new life from the wreckage of the old.
What an amazing story! I was sceptical at first but the plot just carried me away into this amazingly well-realized world! The voice-acting in the audio version is great and adds a lot to the overall story.
A very near future look at marginalised people struggling to survive a climate change disaster and its aftermath in NYC.
Time for a subjective / objective take from me: this book did nothing but make me feel unbearably anxious for the first half, and reinforce my lack of faith in humanity by the end. I didn’t enjoy it at all.
But it’s well written (altho I hated the made up slang, mileage may vary) and timely in its observations of inequality and the crushing juggernaut of monied interests. Worth a look if you have the emotional bandwidth to look it in the face in 2020.
(Bailed at the end of Part 4, then skimmed Part 15)
A near future SF story dealing with the aftermath of a colossal storm. The survivors include a young couple and a trans man all previously living on the edges of society in a city where the rich thrive. But does a distaste lead to hope or a repeat of the past? Great ear for character voices and acts some tough questions but I feel needed a bit more room to breath to fully explore the issues raised.
A difficult (thematically) but necessary read. Incredibly diverse casts, powerful and haunting messages, all wrapped up in a haunting near-future post-apoc landscape. Definitely delivered on the three things from the book jacket that sold me: post-apoc/sci-fi/LGBT.
I finished this book this morning and completely forgot about writing a review, which never happens. I guess that says something about the book itself. Nothing too damning! I enjoyed this, a near future dystopia in a world wracked by climate change, about what happens when a huge hurricane barrels through New York.
We follow three perspectives: a woman from a poor neighbourhood who loses everything, a rich heiress who finds solace in art, and a genderqueer anarchist searching for their friend. The stories are separate for a while, but they do end up converging. It's an interesting and sobering look at what climate change could bring, and how it would affect different people. The most adverse effects fall on people already marginalised and disadvantaged, which is depressingly true to life. The book itself was kinda bleak, which seems appropriate. Not that there wasn't any hope or lightness, because there was. I just felt kinda run down by the book on a whole, and while I appreciated the writing and the themes, there was nothing in particular that struck me favourably. I liked all the characters, though I can't say I was super satisfied with how their stories progressed and ended up. Which is definitely a me thing.
Listened to the audiobook as read by Eboni Flowers, Eileen Stevens, Jayme Mattler and Timothy Andrés Pabon. I always appreciate when books have different actors for different characters. I especially loved Makayla and Jesse's voices. Good book! I did like it, but it wasn't totally for me.
Edelweiss. All City turned out to be a very original and dark story of what happens to the poor in the aftermath of a catastrophic storm. I enjoyed the first half of the book as we followed Makayla from her home to a friend’s house and then to a shelter. It was the most engrossing part of the novel. It was AFTER they leave the shelter and set up in an abandoned home and new characters are introduced where my attention started to drift. I found the rich girl Evann and her non-stop chatter about modern art and her dog Pollack (of course) exhausting. So many BASQUIAT references! There is also another trio and is added to the story to add even more POV’s. Overall, I found the tone of All City a little preachy. There is a lot of economic equality talk. Anyone with money or in the careers of law enforcement, military or medicine are portrayed poorly and with their boot firmly on the neck of the lower classes. The police are murdering thugs in the past (which is probably equivalent to our current time) and in the future. This is a very grim work of speculative fiction that was well written but I was left unaffected by the characters and their plight.
In a not too distant future, New York has been devastated by a hurricane and the only people left are those too poor to leave. Shelters have been set up but they are dangerous and many of the occupants seek a safer place. One woman, Makayla, discovers a deserted downtown condominium building that has survived most of the devastation caused by the hurricane and its aftermath. She invites others to join her but they must be willing to work including scavenging the unsafe streets for fast disappearing supplies.
All City by author Alex DiFrancesco is a beautifully written post-apocalyptic novel in which the rich have escaped almost unscathed the ravages of climate change while the poor are left to survive an unsafe world with very little help. The story is compelling perhaps because it is too easy to imagine that this scenario is a real possibility.
Thanks to Edelweiss+ and Seven Stories Press for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review
There was a lot of unrealized potential in this book. Conceptually, it's interesting. Some of the characters were distinct, although Evann set my teeth on edge every time. I didn't feel like that character was portrayed with a great deal of insight, although writing her in a shallow way might have been the point. I did feel like the characters were sometimes caricatures of themselves, although I was eventually able to develop an emotional investment in most of them. (Not Evann. Good God. If I remember nothing else about this book, I will remember how much I fucking hated that character. Talk about a caricature.) The culmination of Makayla's arc was interesting and, I thought, merited a little more buildup.
All City is a fairly standard apocalypse scenario. But there are two things that really stood out in my mind about this book that brought it up from a 3.5 to a 4 star. The first is the space it opens up for a rather deep first exploration of the great disparity between the haves and the have nots. The (albeit annoying) character Evann is a wealthy woman who is what we would call “liberal.” She’s sympathetic to the plight of poor people- which is more than many wealthy can say- but she struggles when it impacts her property. I think this is a really unique character; it’s a viewpoint we don’t often see represented. And then the homeless characters are also very 3 dimensional and complex, which is another thing you don’t see all that much. Jesse was actually one of my favourite characters, they were quite smart, complicated, soft and hard at the same time… And then of course there’s Mikayla and Jayden. Somewhere in between the homeless and the wealthy, they also played an important role as the precariously just-getting by. The second thing that was interesting about this book was the ending. It was a depressingly realistic look at how things often end, with the wealthy smoothing over everything and the poor ending up in places like prison or deported. But the fact that we got to “bounce back” from the apocalypse and have this ending, where the wealthy came back to NY, and the squatters were cleaned up ruthlessly and completely, well that was depressingly realistic and I think we can expect to see exactly that for a certain early-mid period of the climate crisis. And there I think the author tapped into a truth about what is coming in the years ahead that we don’t often think about, let alone talk about. It’s the nitty gritty of how the climate crisis will play out on the streets and in government for this period, as the damage is too intense for immediate recuperation but complete abandonment won’t happen yet either. This is an insightful portrayal of a terrible future we are currently penning for ourselves.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I haven’t cried while reading a book in a long time, but this one really got to me. It took a second for me to actually like this book, but eventually I couldn’t deny the way DiFrancesco weaved this story. They do a really great job of identifying the intersectionality between race, gender, and socioeconomic status, all the while using climate change to address them all. They also develop the characters extremely well, particularly the three narrators, and before you know it you’re weeping/yelling alongside them. This book is a reflection, a glimpse into the future, a cry for help, and a call to action all in one. My only real complaint is that there were a significant amount of typos, but it didn’t impair my ability to understand what was going on in the book at all. I do think that there were some areas where the plot could have been thickened a little bit more, but altogether I think DiFrancesco had a lot to discuss and did a really wonderful job discussing it with urgency and composure at the same time. ***Trigger warning: Sexual assault on page 73, and a few comments alluding to the assault are made throughout the book.***
The new apocalypse is climate change which is well dealt with in this story with all of the societal and economical fallout. New York City is struck by Superstorm Bernice. The wealthy evacuate and the poor are left behind. The people in the middle seem to be gone in this futuristic story told by 3 characters, 1) Makayla - a young woman of color who works at a convenience store; 2) Jesse - transgendered with 2 technically illegal immigrant friends; and 3) Evann - bored, depressed, art-collecting daughter with an uber-rich father. Makayla's and Jesse's voices seemed the most authentic to me. Although I realize what Evann represents, this character had too much self-awareness of - how wonderful those nasty poor people disappeared although I feel so sorry for them - that came off as preachy. The superstorm leaves those left behind struggling and fighting for their lives as Evann bemoans having to stay in a compound and the lost of her things, including artwork, in her quaint city apartment. The ones left behind in the city find a way to rebuild until one day, a street artist paints an amazing mural that attracts the attention of the building's owner who wants their property back. I rated this as 4 stars because of the preachiness because I think readers are sharp enough to figure things out without being quite so heavy-handed about it. This book is well worth reading because I think this is likely how things will come about. There are a variety of interesting characters throughout the book besides these 3 main characters that offer some surprises.
This book brought back both the optimism and hopelessness that I found in Occupy Wall Street, that is, knowing we were creating something new and real and knowing that anything we created would always be stolen from us and sold back to someone who couldn't understand it.
A moving look at our future; a close-up of people trying to survive when disaster strikes; an exploration of the marginalized, the forgotten, the suffering, the resilient. Touching and - at times - frustrating, Alex gives us hints of hope along with strong, necessary doses of a reality that we need to confront. They weave three separate narratives together to form a shocking conclusion that I still am thinking about and will be thinking about for a long time.
A beautiful and devastating story. DiFrancesco's cast is incredibly diverse with just as much empathy and understanding shown for an upper-class snob and a genderqueer gutter punk. The prose is quick, pretty, and filled with inventive slang. Can't wait to see what Alex DiFrancesco comes up with next.
I saw this on a library display and picked it up, not knowing much about the story I'd be jumping into. What I found was a fascinating and heartbreaking journey into near-future New York, where storms are forever changing the lives of its inhabitants.
DiFrancesco writes a diverse and difficult set of characters - each of the three main characters is complex, and not entirely likable. Race and class politics, gender orientation, and sexual assault are all examined as these characters learn to navigate their post-apocalyptic world.
All City would easily stand up to a re-read - lots of weighty moments to digest. I'm excited to see what this author will bring to readers next.
A novel where the parts are better than the whole. A climate change-spurred apocalypse is a timely and relevant subject to tackle, but this is more like the very beginnings of a localized disaster. It’s near-future ish (a grandma of the one of the main characters is described as a young adult in “25”, presumably 2025, meaning this takes place several decades after that), but practically none of the technology mentioned doesn’t exist today. The made-up slang was cool, but overdone. The anonymous artist, apparently inspired by Banksy, served as part of the climax of the story yet the ending didn’t seem to have much to say that the rest of the story didn’t. The story follows several characters, but only one, Makayla, is really dynamic and interesting despite her shortcomings. Evann was far too one-the-nose for her sections to be interesting, while Jesse was more fun to read but didn’t change throughout the story.
I would have liked to see more from Jesse’s perspective. Even though their back story is explained well enough, we never get to live in it like we do Makayla’s. Part of this is because of the length of the book, but I don’t think it would have hurt to have another hundred pages or so to connect to the characters.
Ultimately, this is a good read, especially if you want to see more queer characters and stories in books that aren’t necessarily about queerness themselves. I look forward to reading more from the author because this book shows they have a lot of potential if they can thread their great ideas into a more cohesive and satisfying whole.
I am very late getting my review of this novel posted, and for that, all my apologies to the author and potential readers.
Not many writers have been able to break my heart—and mend it in ways I didn’t know it needed—as well as Alex DiFrancesco has. With All City, they manage what few writers of apocalyptic fiction (though I should stress this author’s style and skill far exceeds and could hardly be reduced to such a label) can. Here they present us with a seemingly hopeless scenario and, when it would be so much easier to train the eye only on all that is bleak and horrific, unearth hope and humanity from the cracks left behind. This is a powerful novel of tremendous heart, wherein the simple, yet far from easy, acts of love and art and community building are what propel and guide us through an all too plausible catastrophe. I admit that I would struggle to find light in such a world, as I often struggle to find it in the one we currently inhabit, but if I were fortunate enough to find the people DiFrancesco writes about with such honesty and grace in this book, I would be much more likely to believe we could overcome the odds, even if new odds (or old ones) would surely be around the next bend.
Wow! The characters in this book are so genuine and full, you really feel with them. The setting of NYC destroyed by a superstorm brings me right back to Sandy and the destruction that still remains in my NJ coast surroundings. The bay running through streets it was so impossible to think it could ever reach, but did anyway is so real. It makes you question the fate of our planet and if it is too late to fix it. But, the community coming together to help each other gives hope. The characters in the book helping each other and strangers make you believe in humanity. I will be honest, I wanted a happy ending for everyone, but I know that would never happen. This is a great book that really makes you wonder what kind of a person you would be in that situation. It also makes you see how the system is designed to destroy anything that isn't profitable to the system. I highly recommend it.
3.5/5 stars. 85% off the book was 3 stars for me, but if the whole book had held my interested like the last 15%, it would have been 4 stars.
There were a few things that were distracting throughout the book. I feel like _All City_ tried too hard with language (particularly the never ending use of slang) to define the book’s time setting as “not now.” I also found *all* the characters to be annoying, not just the vapid wealthy chick who was clearly supposed to be.
On the other hand, I quite liked the variety of viewpoints on the city during and after this climate event. I guessed that the characters’ stories would come together, and thought that the way they did was clever. As the stories merged, the book became deeply interesting to me for the first time. Everything in the last third of the book started to say something that felt worth staying in for (about choices, relationships, community, capitalism, art, hope, and more), and I’m glad I stuck with it.
This was an amazing book I already did a vlog on it but I thought I should also do a post about it as well in case people miss my vlog. So let me just say I highly recommend that everyone read this book. All City real made me think about the world and how we live. It makes you think about how you treat others and view others. The book is placed in New York City during a storm that takes away the city and leaves people struggling to find their way. The characters in the book are well played out and the storyline definitely keeps you wanting to read.I also like how the author presented some issues in the LBGT community that I'm sure people have never thought of. The Author was able to show how we think we are so different but at the end of the day we are so much the same. No one has a perfect life and there may come a day that we will have to embrace each other through the struggle.
Huh! I did finish it. I wasn't sure I would, around the 40% mark, but then I had a conversation with my dad about why he likes apocalyptic sci fi (which I generally avoid) and he said "because people always find a way to go on, no matter how awful things are" and I've been thinking about it a lot. It was still a drag to read til the last 5-10% though, when I could hardly bear to put it down because I had to know what would happen next.
"People find a way to go on" is a pretty good summary of the arc of the book. You make something beautiful (a relationship, a community, guerilla art) but the weight of circumstances brings it down. Something else is always being built and always falling. Down, down, down.
I was impressed with it artistically when I finished, though I don't know if I can justify even to myself why that would be. Maybe because of the end, which really was sweeping.
Character development was slow, but the concept of three viewpoints from very differing backgrounds made this book interesting and kept me reading. The plot revolves around superstorm Bernice, which hits NYC. The wealthy have left the city before the storm. Three main survivors reveal their stories of survival, coping for shelter and food for months without water or electricity. Teaching, learning, caring and sharing with a diverse variety of individuals in an abandoned building after the floods have receded. Language is raw and street life is the norm.
Slow start, but nicely tied up toward the end of the book.