Title: We All Looked Up
Author: Tommy Wallach
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 2015
Rating: 4 stars
“It’s not the end of the world,” Stacy said.
So I started writing this review at 1am because I made the grave mistake of reading before bed. I got home from work around 10pm and had been reading ever since. Edgar Allan Poe once wrote that a story should be read in one sitting, “for, if two sittings be required, the affairs of the world interfere, and every thing like totality is at once destroyed.” In other worlds, if one stops reading and returns to the book later, the effect of the literature is lost. I’m a firm believer in Poe’s logic, so naturally I just had to read the last 200 pages before bed, resulting in the late-night blogging. Unfortunately, I fell asleep before finishing my post, so now I am continuing it 12 hours later.
Wallach’s first novel, We All Looked Up, captivated me in the bookstore many months ago when I purchased it. Honestly, just look at that cover — it is gorgeous; it’s very minimalist and wonderful. That cover paired with the title was enough to hook me. The novel tells the story of what would happen if we all thought the world was going to end in 2 months. In Wallach’s novel, Earth is doomed to be hit by ARDR-1388, AKA Ardor, AKA a meteor. In that span of 2 months, everything changes. What do people have to lose when the entire planet has just been sentenced to death?
The story revolves around four teenagers in Seattle, Washington: Peter, the superstar, cliché athlete in all his handsome splendor; Anita, the insanely smart girl with dreams that don’t correspond with her strict dictator parents’ plans; Andy, the slacker skater punk whose parents never cared; and Eliza, the photographer who once made a mistake that labeled her a slut for the rest of her high school life. These teens find themselves part of a karass — a group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner. Four teens, who might never have banded together if not for their impending demise, experience a chain of events set off by that one burning question everyone in the novel is left with: what do I have to lose?
The story is told in an alternating POV from each of the main characters. The fluidity of this shift in narration is very smooth; if you often have trouble reading multiple POV narrations, give this one a try, because it’s a lot easier to read. Also, Wallach does a great job of differentiating the voices of these characters so that you can actually tell the difference between them. The characters are all great, too, each going through their own struggles that many of us can relate to. Even when the characters were making dumb decisions, it was hard not to like and sympathize with them. I loved seeing each of the characters develop over the course of 2 months and how they all dealt with the end of the world. Very inspiring.
The novel was very realistic and thought-provoking. While reading, I was completely engaged in the story; towards the end, the suspense was killing me and I had to force myself not to skim ahead to see the outcome. Every time I had to put the novel down for something, I felt like I was still in Wallach’s world, counting down the days until a giant asteroid hit Earth and we all died. I actually felt like my own world was going to end soon, and it’s starting to change the way I think. I have anxiety and sometimes have a lot of trouble living in the moment and enjoying life. I read somewhere that many of us wish the weekdays away and live for the weekend, but that’s not really a way to live. If you can’t find beauty in a Tuesday, even something small that made it a good day, then are you really living? I think about that a lot, and after reading We All Looked Up, I’m probably going to think about it a lot more.
I was very curious about the ending. I kind of love books that have a sort of countdown, like Looking for Alaska by John Green. It puts me on edge and holds on to my attention. I was hoping for a different kind of ending, but I know that Wallach ended it the only correct way to end a novel like this. I didn’t expect a lot from this novel, but it very much surprised me. We All Looked Up is a great coming-of-age story that will break your heart and mend it all at once. I look forward to reading future novels from Wallach (one is scheduled for a 2016 release date!) and listening to his companion album, We All Looked Up.
Favorite Quote(s): “The best books, they don’t talk about things you never thought about before. They talk about things you’d always thought about, but that you didn’t think anyone else had thought 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.”
“All the world was a cage.”
“That was the problem with understanding someone too well — you couldn’t help but forgive them, no matter what they did.”