Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Title: We All Looked Up
Author: Tommy Wallach
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Australia)
Published Date: 24 March 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

I received this book through NetGalley from Simon & Schuster (Australia) for review.

Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.

They always say that high school is the best time of your life.

Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.

Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.
(summary from Goodreads)

A heart-wrenching and thought-provoking debut that will keep you thinking long after you've finished. What would you do if you only 2 months to live?

That's the question We All Looked Up revolves around, and it's one you'll ask yourself more than once. Wallach poses that 66.6% of the world's population will be killed by the asteroid hurtling towards his fictional Earth and the question of what happens after is barely touched upon, because this book is all about the lead up to that apocalyptic event. It's a refreshing concept. I've read a heap of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, but the before is new for me. Still, that humanity basically goes crazy seems to be the common theme. Does it count as cliche when it's likely a true portrayal of what the reality would be? I don't know. I just know that that sort of thing - riots, murders, enforced Government control, basically humans killing each other before anything else gets the chance - gets old and frustrating fast for me, and so there were times - few and far between though - that I wanted We All Looked Up to move along a little faster. It's more me being nitpicky than the book itself being the issue. This is the only thing that holds me back from giving the novel 5 stars, because otherwise this book is fantastic. 

I admit to being wary when I first realised it alternates between four points of view, but Wallach handles it masterfully. Each of these characters is so different and their voices so distinct. The story is stronger for these varied views because the outlooks, the choices, the beliefs, all give readers another way of looking - well, at everything. The characters, the idea of the end of the world, humanity, religion, priorities. I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with each character at one point or another, feeling for them and being annoyed by them at others, and it makes for a more engaging read. Even Wallach's side characters are standout - Bobo, Misery, Golden, Chad, Anita's parents. They each make their own impact. All at once Wallach's characters have you full of hope and despairing at the futility of it all. 

As I said earlier, you won't be able to help but question what you would do if the world as you know it was ending in 2 months. Do something you always wanted to but put off? Go somewhere? Be with family? Make amends? Fall in love? It was interesting reading this as a 31 year old, asking that question of my present, but then thinking about my teenage self facing such a possibility. It's one of the more heartbreaking realisastions of this novel, that the characters may not have the opportunity to grow up and experience life outside of high school. Wallach closes the novel on the perfect note, open ended and bittersweet. After finishing I wanted to simply take a moment to just breathe. To just sit and be. 

We All Looked Up is a hard hitting narrative that is bound to leave its mark. 



  1. Great review! I totally agree. I loved the characters and didn't at all mind the alternating perspectives. But I did find the plot and pacing a little challenging. I think the moments you mentioned were odd for me because they felt more plot-driven after the book being so character-driven. I would have given it five stars if the focus had been totally personal.
    Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally

    1. Yes, that's my feeling too! It came so close to 5 stars. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I love that each character stand on their own - that makes for a great book and a talented author! I can't wait to read this one!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

    1. Yes, exactly! If multiple pov's simply sound the same, what's the point, right? Wallach did a great job. I hope you enjoy the book!