All Fall Down is set in the 14th century, yet it reminds me a lot of the post apocalypse novels that fascinated and disturbed me during my teens, and indeed, the author herself describes the Black Death as very much an apocalyptic event in an Author's Note at the end.
Isabel is 14, and can't imagine any other life than living with her father, stepmother, younger brothers and sister, sharing the home with their animals, farming the land. Suddenly, the end of the world seems to have come, as sickness wipes out many of the people in her village including some of her own family. Isabel and her friend Robin, orphaned by the Black Death, and with Isabel's younger brother and sister to look after, have to work out a way to survive in this strange new world, and deal with the challenges of growing up and becoming adults.
Perhaps in some ways Isabel's character is a bit modern for a historical novel - the concept of the teenager and of there being a stage between dependent child and fully fledged adult didn't really exist until quite recently. Isabel has already been working on the land for years. Still, it makes for a very readable perspective on what it might have been like to be a young person in the past, and Nicholls mostly avoids too much softening of the harsh realities of the period. I found Isabel a convincing and believable character, and I think young people might well enjoy this presentation of historical events through the eyes of an ordinary girl, and imagining what it would be like to be her.
An enjoyable yet thought provoking read - now to look for my old post apocalypse books.