Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Title: We All Looked Up
Author: Tommy Wallach
Published: March 24, 2015 by Simon & Schuster
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the published (Thanks Simon Teen) in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I was really looking forward to reading We All Looked Up. I don't often see apocalyptic fiction. I'm not sure I've ever read anything that speculated the idea of what it would be like if the apocalypse was upon us. It's a unique concept and I'm always looking to try something different, especially when it comes to Contemporary novels, which I am starting to explore a lot more lately. There were some really great things about We All Looked Up, including complex characters and beautiful writing, but the plot fell a little short for me.

We All Looked Up is without a doubt a character-driven novel. Despite the fact that it is told in a first-person omnitiant narrative style we see the story from four different perspectives. What I think worked about that style is that each character had such a distinct voice. You could tell who was the focus in each chapter because of their style. Peter's were more philosophical, Eliza's were more sassy, Anita's was more intellectual, and Andy's were more effervescent. Each person's take was a little different but they were all so honest and realistic. They felt like real teenagers and that wasn't always a good thing. In fact, there were moments that they were quite unlikable but even that added to the realism of the characters.

Plus every character was incredibly well-rounded and complex. They had strengths and weaknesses, and they were really just trying to figure themselves out. Each of them had to preform a delicate balancing act between who others saw them as and who they saw themselves as. This of course come into conflict at times. Peter's not your typical jock. He's a bit of an intellectual, has a serious heart of gold, and wonders if there's more to it all. Eliza is seen as a promiscuesce and jaded artist but she's also very caring and self-conscious. To others Anita seems like a spoiled goody-goody but she doesn't have the best home life and she has dreams that don't include an Ivy League education. Andy is a slacker skateboarder but he's also really compassionate, loving, and a great friend. They could have been cliches, but they weren't. The characters Tommy created were so complex and they were one of my favorite parts of the book.

I think the hardest thing to express about this book are my feelings on the plot however. There was a lot to like but on the whole it didn't come together for me. I think there was just a general lack of cohesiveness. The beginning felt like a coming of age story. The characters were exploring who they were and who they wanted to be. Then it evolved into something more big picture, as it shifted focus to how the larger society was dealing with the impending doom. If you're like me you've probably read a dystopian novel and wondered how society could have devolved, here we see that. And just when I was starting to enjoy that aspect of the book it became more action-packed. After spending so much of the novel being character-driven, a shift to a more plot-driven format kind of took me out of the story. Then in the end it shifted back personal again and came full-circle. It did seem logical but the flow felt jarring and like there was a general lack of connection. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had stuck to one main focus area.

But that being said I did really enjoy the writing. It was thought-provoking and deep. It was equal parts philosophical, religious, and jaded. It definitely explored some very complex concepts about life, death, friendship, love, and acceptance. It was an extremely honest and gritty betrayal of humanity and teenagers. A few moments did make me feel a little uncomfortable because they were almost too honest. The characters had to come to terms with some pretty serious circumstances throughout the novel. It made me wonder how I would respond to a similar situation. Any book that makes you think that much about yourself and society has to be a success.

Despite some things that fell a little short for me, including a plot that didn't feel completely cohesive, We All Looked Up was an enjoyable read with great characters and beautiful writing that made me think long after I had finished reading. It was a great debut.

I give We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach an 8.5 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. I would recommend this book but I think it would appeal to a pretty specific audience. It feels like what I would call YA Literary Fiction. If you are looking for a unique read with complex characters that explores some deep philosophical themes then check this book out. It is weird and definitely unlike any other book I have read, especially for a YA contemporary, and I mean that in a good way.

Have your read We All Looked Up? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING.


  1. I am so jealous that you got to read a copy of this early!! It has been on my list for months! You're right that there isn't much apocalyptic fiction out there, though there's an abundance of post-apocalyptic. I love the idea of reading about the actual event rather than the aftermath. I don't usually love books that switch back and forth between narrators, but it sounds like this book did a good job of it! I'm glad you enjoyed it even if the plot was a little wonky. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. I couldn't believe it when a copy showed up on my porch a few weeks before release date. It busted my TBR but it was worth it. I loved that concept as well of the actual apocalypse. I wish the book had focused on either the personal side of that or the more big picture side. I think that's what made the plot so wonky, which is a good way of putting it. I hope you get a chance to check it out and enjoy it.

  2. Awesome review! I've been seeing this everywhere and it's great to read another review from someone who loved it!

    Pearl @ AsteriskPearl's Book Blog

    1. It was a good read. Very creative and philisophical. Contemporary fans should definitely check it out.