(may contain spoilers but I’m going to try really hard not to)
Foreword: Hello. I’m going to start reviewing the books that I read so I can remember all the details as to why I liked or disliked a book. Without further ado…
Book: ‘We All Looked Up’ by Tommy Wallach
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Time to read: 12 days
S Y N O P S I S
‘Welcome to the end of the world.’
I’m not going to steal a synopsis off Goodreads of Amazon; I will tell you the synopsis from my perspective.
The book follows the story of four high school kids: Peter (the jock), Andy (the slacker), Eliza (the slut – their words, not mine) and Anita (the overachiever). In their final year of school, college and the future should be what’s at the forefront of their mind but not in this case, because…
There’s a giant asteroid coming towards Earth at full speed! Ardor, the asteroid, is predicted to wipe out two-thirds (66.66%) of the world, and if it comes, ‘it will unleash a force more powerful than one billion nuclear bombs’.
So Ardor kind of controls everyone’s lives. According to astronomers, there are 2 months left until the asteroid hits. They begin to wonder what their time on Earth is worth. If they have dreams they want to achieve, they need to do it right now. Peter and Andy realise they really want to get laid (great goals, guys), Anita wants to be a singer and Eliza pursues her photography and ends up discovering a lot more about herself than expected.
I won’t say any more.
W H A T I L I K E D
You can’t fault the writing. There are some beautiful phrases and some beautiful scenes. The way Tommy describes things is so unique and familiar at the same time. One of the quotes from the book says, “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.” I wouldn’t say this is particularly the best book but the writing definitely makes you feel like you have a friend in the narrator.
Second, it’s a great concept: an asteroid coming towards the Earth giving everyone 2 months to live, learn and define themselves. It made me wonder what labels were, why we defy our dreams, what love really is. It made me ask myself, “What would I do if I had two months left to live?”
W H A T I D I D N ‘ T L I K E
The characterisation was so extreme. A lot of reviewers compare it to The Breakfast Club and they aren’t wrong. You have your four polar opposites and in my opinion, that is lazy characterisation. No one is black and white. No one is just a jock, or just a slut. I think the book comments on that eventually and the characters do discover there is more to them than just this one dimension. But I think humans know that from the beginning. When I was in high school, I was not so confident in myself that I could describe myself as one definitive word. I was confused. I was the half scottish-half american, volleyball playing, singing, overachieving weirdo that had few friends and strange habits. How do you really label that in one word? I understand this is fiction so I do forgive Wallach but I think he could have been a bit more creative with characterisation. Plus, are jocks real?
There was a lot of swearing. A lot. And for someone who a) doesn’t swear and b) likes to read dialogue out loud, this was kind of annoying.
The obsession with sex. As I mentioned earlier, the male character’s goals were to lose their virginity or get laid before the asteroid came. Surely men have bigger dreams than this. I thought it was undignifying and frankly, boring. I don’t want another book with another sex scene.
Also, I don’t think I’m a fan of the ending. Again, no spoilers. Just read it.
F A V O U R I T E C H A R A C T E R
Oddly, my favourite character was a minor one. I felt that perhaps she was the only real person in the novel. Misery, Peter (the jocks)’s sister, was the one character that had genuine issues and real confusion. Over the course of the novel, everyone’s goals were to get laid, defy their parents, sing a song, whatever. Misery, on the other hand, seemed numb to the asteroid which is what I think the majority of the people would be feeling. I can imagine it’s hard to live life to the full when there’s so much pressure and a rush to do so. Misery, whose birth name is Samantha, is stuck in an abusive and intimidating relationship with an older guy called Bobo. There’s a lot of dodgy stuff that goes on between them and it’s never truly resolved. She returns back to him time and time again and because of the truth behind that situation, Misery is the character I sympathised with most. Hers was a believable story. We don’t know what we want and we get wrapped up in wrong and dangerous things.
F A V O U R I T E S C E N E
I feel like I can’t answer this question without spoilers but there’s one scene that sticks out in my mind on page 23, if you have
read the book. It’s a conversation between Eliza and her dying father where they talk about boys and it’s all just very funny.
D I D I T C H A N G E M E?
In a creative writing class last year, we had to discuss if books change the world? There were a lot of contradicting opinions and I stayed quiet because I wasn’t sure. But the more I read, the more I realise –YES, OF COURSE.
I recently read a quote that said writers are the photographers of thought. In the Victorian age, poems and novels were used to translate what was going on in society at the time. If literature didn’t exist, people would be confused and feeling alone. And although social media is now what translates what’s going on in the world for us, do you see books disappearing? No, because they never will. We need books to find ourselves, characters to identify with, book borrowing to make new friends, discussions to form our opinions, and clubs to unite with other people. In novels, I have found who I am. There have been characters that have gone through similar situations as me and watching them survive and heal has reminded me that I, too, can heal.
That’s why I will be asking this question in these blog posts. Books can change me. The Host by Stephanie Meyer (of all people) changed me entirely. It made me realise that ‘Perfection is the greatest bore’ and to be thankful for all the terrible times because without them, we couldn’t possibly appreciate the good.
So, did ‘We All Looked Up’ change me? Well, I don’t know yet. I can see that it could change my mindset. Live life to the full because you don’t know when it will end and your dreams will cease to exist and there will be nothing left of you in this world. But when have we not been told that? And when do we ever really appreciate it?
There was a quote in the book that said that if life were any longer, we would appreciate it even less than we do now. Boom. True. So yes, perhaps my mindset is shifting and I will finally be able to ‘live life’ the way I want to. Maybe. We will see.
F I N A L T H O U G H T S
I enjoyed reading this. There were times I couldn’t put it down. It’s an exciting and unique read. So despite all the bad things I’ve said about it, I do recommend this book. It will make you think and it will make you laugh (which is always important).
I rate it 3.5/5 stars.
Plus, there is a pretty cool soundtrack that goes along with the book by Tommy Wallach. It’s available on Spotify and I’m listening to it peacefully as I write this post.
Good luck & keep reading!
Q U O T E S
If you’re still reading, here are some quotes to entice you to read the novel. (No spoilers, just pretty words)
‘Against an eggplant purple backdrop shone a single bright star, blue as a sapphire, like a fleck of afternoon someone had forgotten to wipe away.’ (Describing the asteroid)
‘She loved watching as the images appeared on the blank white paper as if in some kind of backward laundromat – a billowing line of clean sheets slowly developing stains, then hung up until those stains were fixed forever.’ (Describing photography)
‘Blame it on the blue star.’ (Describing all the terrible things happening in the world after the asteroid discovery)
‘In a landslide, running unopposed, she’d just been elected his reason to live.’ (Describing love)
‘All of a sudden, the world seemed like a very dangerous place.’ (Describing the events happening due to the fear of death)
‘People talked about their days being numbered, but really, everything was numbered.’ (It goes on to describe how many cups of coffee you might drink, times you’ll watch your favourite movie, see the sunrise…)
‘All the world was a cage.’
‘It’s you I’m worried about. Your generation, I mean. Just look at you. So young and gorgeous and full of… life. You deserve a second act.’
‘Beauty always made a target of its possessor. Every other human quality was hidden easily enough – intelligence, talent, selfishness, even madness – but beauty would not be concealed.’
”I wish we had more time,’ he finally said.’