We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

We All Looked up tommy wallach
We All Looked Up Tommy Wallach Cover

Title: We All Looked Up 
Author: Tommy Wallach 
Series: Stand-alone 
Genre: Contemporary, YA 
Publication date: March 24, 2015 
Rating: ★★★½ 

Before the asteroid 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 it 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.

When I started this book, I was positively surprised. I was hooked from the very first page. It wasn’t the story so much as the writing that captured my attention. It was good. First impression: a very insightful, intelligent coming-of-age story. The kind where you start to expect at least two memorable quotes per page. The story is set in a very realistic, perfectly normal world, until suddenly there’s a knife hanging above everyone’s head in the shape of an asteroid. Two months. That’s all they know for sure. A 66,6% chance the world is going to hell in less than eight weeks. What do you do once you only have two months of certainty left? I absolutely loved this. Especially because it was clear from the beginning that there’s was no way to predict how things would turn out.

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.

Everything started out very slow paced, but that’s exactly what this kind of book needs. It’s not the destination so much as the journey, right? The focus was mainly on character development, on the complexity of personalities, on thoughts. A very welcome change from the YA novels with faced paced stories and mostly superficial characters.

The book is written in four different POVs. We follow the lives of four seemingly random high school students: Peter, Eliza, Andy and Anita. They couldn’t be more different from each other, and to be fair, they are a bit stereotype, but in this case it actually served the story well. All of them are struggling in a way, somehow trapped in their own seemingly happy lives. They’re questioning their integrity and their future. What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be happy? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? They’re trying to cast away their labels. I liked all of them. Obviously they were a bit naive and perhaps weak in the beginning, but it is a coming-of-age story after all. The whole point of the story is for them to grow. Or that’s what I thought it was anyway.

It was clear from the very beginning that the characters were destined to meet. Maybe this is the wrong way of putting it, because they sort of knew each other already being in the same high school and all. It’s better to say they were supposed to get involved in each other’s lives. And it’s when that happened that everything went to hell. Both literally and figuratively speaking. I started out loving this book and ended up hating it. Strongly put.

Somehow the story suddenly picked up a lot of pace, and not for the better. All of a sudden things were happening very fast and developments were really rushed. We got numerous events in a row and the characters lost all their depth in the process. The characters were supposed to change for the better, but I thought they changed for the worst. Choices were made without much consideration, conversations became shallow and the significant ‘events’ were not what I was hoping for. I was hoping this book would tell me how the four characters would prepare for the upcoming apocalypse, each dealing in his/her own way, but instead I got the story of how the world went rogue and how they got accidentally caught up in a criminal/drug environment and all the problems this brings along. The characters I loved were now really annoying me.

Peter: In the beginning he seemed relatively intelligent, but by the end he became some self-sacrificing-wannabe-hero, who could have saved himself a lot of trouble if only he would have taken some time to think.

Andy: He became such a jerk, really. Like, he was this nice guy with a lot of bad habits, but at least he’d always had some integrity. But somehow he suddenly lost all of it and started blindly following his friend (whereas before at least he questioned Bobo) doing these insane things and started acting like a twelve year old. He did see the light in the end, but it was still annoying.

Eliza: She was actually pretty cool in the beginning. I liked that she was brave and independent, despite her shitty life. But then she changed. Sometimes she acted really immature. At one point her dad was missing and she didn’t even give it a second thought. Like, she felt bad about it for a sec, but then she just went on with her life. And the things she said!

There’s this moment that comes when you’re hooking up with a guy. Maybe you know what I mean. You become his whole world. Or maybe it’s just sex that becomes his whole world, but that’s okay too. I think we have this idea that it’s bad, the way dudes are always thinking about sex. But to me, it always seemed really pure. Like a puppy wanting a treat. And it starts to seem like such a little thing to do to make somebody so happy

So it’s charity? 

It sounds that way, doesn’t it? It feels good too. Only not that good. Most of the time, anyway. But sometimes, when I think I must be the shittiest person in the world, sex lets me make somebody sublimely happy for a few minutes, and that makes me feel better.

I can’t even begin to express how much this bothered me. It’s disgusting, really. Sex is great because it gives women the chance to make men feel good? ZAEJGEKAGEAJKGRJAg. And then there was also some conversation with Miz and Anita about how hard it is to be pretty. ZKGJAEKRGJEKGRJ Sorry, I couldn’t sympathize.

Anita: She was a pretty closed up girl with not a lot of friends. She lacked the courage to speak up for herself, to become who she really wanted to be. Gradually, she changed. And I liked that. It was interesting to see how she learned to follow her own dreams. But somehow, near the ending, it became over the top. At some point Andy and Bobo propose to set some buildings on fire and she’s like: “Yes, I’ve always wanted to set a shop on fire, let’s do this.” WHAT? I mean, it’s not so much that she does it (I suppose in the given circumstances it can be pretty liberating to trash some things), but more that she doesn’t even have to think about. It was so unlike her.

And then there was the LAME ASS LOVE TRIANGLE. Although, is it a triangle when there are four people involved? Ugh, I hated it. The puberty level was insufferable. Also, it was too rushed. People who hadn’t spoken more than ten sentences over the course of a year, suddenly fell MADLY in love. Please. This could have been done so much more mature.

Sometimes it felt like Wallach forgot about the nature of his characters in his attempt to build more and more tension. I don’t think this book needed all the violence and fighting and kidnapping and godknowswhatelse. It didn’t add anything to it. Because the book was too short to do all this properly. It’s a shame, really. It had a lot of potential, but it didn’t deliver. My expectations were just too high after the first half, because I wanted this book to be different. But it is an enjoyable and pretty fast read. And it is very well written.

And does the asteroid crash? I guess that’s something you’ll have to find out for yourself. I for one thought this was handled very well.

You didn’t win the game of life by losing the least. That would be one of those—what were they called again?—Pyrrhic victories. Real winning was having the most to lose, even if it meant you might lose it all. Even though it meant you would lose it all, sooner or later.
And so they waited, together, for whatever was coming next.

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