Title: We All Looked Up
Author: Tommy Wallach
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: 1st April 2015
Rating: 5/5 stars
Four teens put everything on the line as an asteroid hurtles towards earth in this contemporary YA novel: The Breakfast Club at the end of the world.
Before Ardor, we let ourselves be defined by labels – the athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever. But then we all looked up and everything changed. They said the asteroid would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to become something bigger than what we’d been, something that would last even after the end. Two months to really live.
This book was absolutely brilliant! It is a beautiful and complex analysis of what would happen if we were told the world was ending in two months. What would cease to be relevant to our lives? How would the government deal with the population?
We have four character voices – Peter, Eliza, Anita and Andy. None of them are friends but they are thrown together in weird ways as the end of the world hurtles ever closer. I liked Andy’s description of the group as his karass, a term borrowed from Kurt Vonnegut to describe a group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner. Normally I hate pretentious references in young adult fiction – I haven’t met a teenager yet who knows who Vonnegut is – but it worked really well in the fabric of this story. Though it was a little weird coming from Andy, a pot-head and self-confessed slacker.
The characters are so varied that it is incredibly easy to identify strongly with at least one of them. Their reactions to the two-month ultimatum just worked so well! Anita skipped out on her parents, indulging her true passion for music while she still had time, Peter faces up to his true romantic feelings, Andy is determined to lose his virginity and Eliza creates a blog that goes viral, showcasing her photography to the world. The minor characters of Misery and Bobo were also intriguing. Bobo has never had anything to live for and finally gets to indulge his lust for anarchy as the world falls to pieces. Misery, his girlfriend and Peter’s sister, has lived as Bobo’s saviour after an attempted suicide – she has to decide just how much she can put up with in the face of everyone’s destruction.
Ultimately, what made me fall in love with this book was this dialogue from the first chapter:
The best books, they don’t talk about things you’ve never thought about before. They talk about things you’d always thought about, but that you didn’t think anyone else had though about. You read them, and suddenly you’re a little bit less alone in the world. You’re part of this cosmic community of people who’ve thought about this thing, whatever it happens to be.
Wallach just gets readers in this scene, and it also encompasses the story he has created. I am sure we have all considered what would happen if we knew when we would die.
For those who love music, Wallach has also created a playlist to go with the book, writing the songs the characters themselves write and perform. For me, it doesn’t add all that much more to the story – I don’t think it needed anything extra, but it is a cool thing for the author to have done.
While I won’t spoil anything for you, the end is just perfect. Devastatingly sad but also rather beautiful. Wallach is an amazing study of human character and this book is a fantastic example of young adult fiction which will touch everyone.