I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on March 24th 2015
Genres: Young Adult
Reading Challenges: 2015 80 Book Challenge
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
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 expected so much from this book.
That’s the problem, isn’t it? Expecting too much. Sometimes I get a little too hopeful that I’m going to find a diamond in the rough and get to sing the praise of a novel. Unfortunately, this one end up being only mediocre.
Now, medicore isn’t terrible. Obviously, I found the premise of the book to be interesting AND I read it all the way to the end, so there is clearly something here. It’s hard to go terribly wrong with apocalyptic fiction because I enjoy the themes presented by such stories and the way in which they make me think about my own life.
For me, the success of this book hinged on the ending. I had a sneaking suspicion of what Tommy Wallach would do at the end of his novel, and I ended up being correct in my assumption. This ended exactly the way I expected and, while I see why Wallach chose this ending, I personally didn’t feel the emotional impact that he was trying to convey.
This book fell short in the character development. I don’t feel like Wallach really knew his characters. They were all quite different, yes, but I felt almost like he looked down on them in a way. I thought that Andy, the slacker kid, was probably the most developed, and I kind of wished the entire story has been focused on him. The others — Anita (the brilliant girl who secretly wants to be a singer), Peter (the jock with an existential crisis), and Eliza (the sexual artist) — just felt like cliches. In particular, Eliza’s motivations did not make much sense to me, even though she was supposed to be a cool character. This isn’t to say that the characters were terrible, because they weren’t. They were just very average characters all the way around and, ultimately, not memorable ones.
Wallach’s end-of-the world scenario also felt extremely pessimistic to me. It’s not too spoiler-tastic to say that the world at large breaks out into riots and a lot of violence occurs, leading to strict enforcement of behavior and jailing people without hope for a trial in order to force control on people. While I can see some of this happening on a small scale, one thing bothered me: the chance of the meteor hitting earth was calculated to be 66%. Some people gave up A LOT to ignore the 33% chance that the world wouldn’t end. I think a lot more people would have been seeking to profit on the hysteria with the hopes that they’d be rich if the meteor passed on by. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t quit my job and resort to violence for a 66% of never having to face the consequences. Maybe I’m just too rational a person?
FINAL GRADE: C
The story did surprise me in places and, like I said above, I love stories that explore extreme scenarios and big questions, like this one does. I think this one suffered from taking on something a little too big and by including too many narrators, which was definitely the reason for the lack of character development. This is yet another book that I think actual teenagers (ages 13-16) might really enjoy, because they aren’t pick about things in the ways that I have become in my old age. The Breakfast Club-esque cast of characters and life dilemmas faced by the character would be ones with which they could identify. But when I hold it up against other books I’ve give four stars (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Famous in Love), I just can’t justify putting this book in that category. I’m glad I read it, but it’s not one that’s going to linger in my mind and I doubt I’ll be reading it.