Friday, October 23, 2015

Young Adult Fiction: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Around the same time that Tommy Wallach's We All Looked Up was published, I had been searching for movie clips that showed the world ending. It wasn't enough that the movie had to do with the end of the world, but they actually had to show the world ending, which only a few of them do. So when I read the synopsis of this book on Goodreads, I knew I had to read it.

The Situation: Peter is the popular athlete of Hamilton High with the ridiculously gorgeous girlfriend. Everyone knows who he is, and next year he will be attending Stanford on a basketball scholarship. Eliza is the resident photographer with a reputation for sleeping around. When the rumors about her first began circling, they were untrue, but since then Eliza has more than lived up to her reputation. Andy is your typical skateboarding slacker. He'd rather be getting high than doing pretty much anything else, including going to class. And Anita is the high-strung overachiever who could never do enough to satisfy her parent's high expectations. All she has ever wanted to be was a singer, but her parents have done everything they can to squash that dream.

The Problem: The asteroid ARDR-1388, or Ardor, has been discovered in the sky. At first no one is concerned, as there is a small chance of any large object in space actually colliding with Earth. But once the President of the United States makes the official announcement, the world knows there are only eight weeks before Ardor is supposed to make contact with Earth, giving humanity a 66.6% chance of survival. Now Peter, Eliza, Andy and Anita, whose lives barely intersected before, are thrown into each other's paths and their lives become increasingly entangled, especially as their surroundings become more chaotic. With possibly only eight weeks to live, now is the time to make dreams come true and come clean with those you care about. Of course, that becomes difficult when the one you care about may not feel the same way, and everyone seems to have their own idea about the best way to spend their final moments on Earth. 

Genre, Themes, History: We All Looked Up is a young adult novel set in modern-day Seattle during the final few weeks before the end of the world. The book is broken up into ten sections an slowly counts down to when Ardor is supposed to collide with Earth. Each section contains a story from each of the four main characters: Peter, Eliza, Andy, and Anita. In the beginning their stories are fairly separated, but they slowly become more intertwined, and they crossover considerably as the characters become more inseparable. As you can probably imagine, society begins to slowly unravel after the announcement is made, eventually causing even the police to give up on maintaining any semblance of order. And as the four characters weren't exactly all best friends at the start, their interactions with each other aren't always the best, even as everyone is just trying to deal with the news of their impending doom in the only way they know how. It is a look at what people do in the face of imminent doom, and for once there are no zombies. Also, the music mentioned in the book is of Wallach's own creation and can be found at

My Verdict: This book is as frustrating and complicated and poignant and insightful and heartbreaking as any decent YA novel should be. All four characters are well thought-out, and they all get pretty equal treatment. Since the narrative viewpoints are coming from four teenagers, the way they handle the impending apocalypse is naturally a bit different from how an adult would, but also not that different. And there is something to be said for an author who can write a book that holds your interest, even though you're pretty sure about how it is all going to end. Wallach still had me holding onto hope and rooting for all four of these kids, even though things seemed doomed from the beginning.

Favorite Moment: When Anita finally realizes things for what they are and makes it her mission to clear the air.

Favorite Character: Definitely Anita, although she has her frustrating moments too. She uses the approach of Ardor as a reason to live her life beyond her parents' ridiculous expectations and do what she has always wanted to do.

Recommended Reading: We All Looked Up is certainly the only end of the world YA book I have ever read, unless you count the zombie apocalypse novel This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers, but even in that one the world isn't completely taken out. Interestingly enough, the latest installment of Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's The Long Earth series, The Long Utopia, has to deal with the potential end of one of the many versions of Earth that human beings have discovered. I would recommend either of those books to someone wanting to explore how humanity would deal with the end of life as they know it.

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