We All Looked Up

Zoe N. | April 15, 2015 | Review

We All Looked Up

We All Looked Up

by Tommy Wallach

Genre: YA Post-Apoclyptic, YA Romance
Published: March 24th 2015
by Simon and Schuster

three-half-stars

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Summary:

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.

Review:

Reminiscent of Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It, Tommy Wallach’s We All Looked Up is a riveting thriller that will engross you from start to finish with its deep philosophical roots and sophisticated writing.

Before, we let ourselves be defined by labels – the athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever. But then we all looked up and everything changed.

It’s senior year, and every student is just on pins and needles waiting for the school-year to end. Until it’s announced that asteroid is on a direct collision clash with Earth, with a 66.6% chance of destroying all life on the planet. Yet, through it all, 4 of these seniors – all completely different from each other – begin to bond, all as they wait for the imminent catastrophe to come.

I loved the exploration of labels and stereotypes within Wallach’s writing. Each of our four main characters are essentially high school stereotypes, yet he manages to make them more than simple stereotypes by giving them dreams, hopes and aspirations of their own.

  • The Athlete: With a scholarship in his favorite sport to his dream school, Peter is ecstatic, except for one thing: he wants a girl he can’t have.
  • The Outcast: Ever since she was labeled a slut, Eliza has been followed by vicious rumors and whispers; yet all she wants is to be remembered for something other than sleeping around.
  • The Slacker: Andy doesn’t understand the fuss about careers and jobs – especially when news of the asteroid comes. All he wants is to get the girl he likes to notice him before it’s too late.
  • The Overachiever: With her 4.0 GPA and the amount of college acceptance letters coming in the mail, Anita should be happy, but she isn’t. Because all Anita wants is to become a singer, something her parents have forbidden.

Can you imagine four individuals more different from each other? Yet, that’s what makes their friendship so touching and beautifully written. They are all willing to look beyond the labels and actually see what’s inside, and that’s what made it so wonderful.

After all, every life ended in apocalypse, one way or another. And when that apocalypse arrived, it would be a pretty cold comfort to think: “Well, at least I don’t have much to lose.” You didn’t win the game of life by losing the least. Real winning was having the most to lose, even if it meant you might lose it all. Even if it meant you would lose it all, sooner or later.

My only major complaint about We All Looked Up is the ending. While I am usually fond of the occasional open ending (i.e. in Flipped and The Giver), yet for some reason it just simply didn’t work for me here. I wanted a more solid ending, or at least some clarification on whether or not View Spoiler ».

Thought-provoking and deep, We All Looked Up is not only a pre-apoclyptic story, but a story about the labels we all wear.

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.

three-half-stars

67 comments

  1. Yep — I had the exact same feelings about the ending. It definitely left me with the thought, “Well . . . what happens next?” Which is okay, seeing as I don’t mind open-endings, but this one was a little too open for my tastes.I meant, WHAT HAPPENED!? Gah. Lovely review! I adored the philosophical writing; it was so quotable.

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought that Kara! Usually I’m all for an open ending (I loved the ending of The Giver), but it just didn’t seem…right here, you know? Thank you!

    2. You can actually tell that ARDOR destroyed Earth as at the end the countdown image no longer showed Earth or Ardor, implying that neither existed as both were destroyed in a collision.

  2. This is a really beautiful review Zoe, I love how you described each of the 4 characters predicaments! It was definitely an intelligent, though provoking book that destroyed labels. The ending was too open ended though, but I think it kind of fit well when they reminisced about what would happen if it did/did not hit.

    1. Thanks Jeann! 🙂 I’m so glad you had similar thoughts. I loved how Wallach really went in depth for the characterization and made them so fleshed out.

    1. If you’re not a big fan of open endings, this probably wouldn’t be your cup of tea Ali. But I’m curious to see what you think of the rest of it!

  3. I seriously want to try this book. I mean, gah, END OF THE WORLD IS MY THING. Although I was concerned it’d have that contemporary-open-ending-who-knows sort of vibe, which is why (I think) I sort of avoided it at first. I read The Age of Miracles and it seems to have a similar sort of idea? And those srsly open endings. *frownie face* I mean I do like them….buuuuut…sometimes it feels like the book’s stopped mid-thought, you know? WELL. The Giver was perfect. ALSO MESSENGER. GAHHHH THAT BOOK KILLED ME. But I digress. xD

    1. END OF THE WORLD STORIES ARE AWESOME. Have you read Life as We Knew It before? It’s similar to this.

      And I agree. There are some books that open endings totally work (*cough* The Giver *cough*), but this was a little…too open, you know?

  4. This book sounds so good Zoe! I’m looking forward to reading this soon. And that last quote you added, aaaah, now I’m excited to read this. 😀 Lovely review Zoe! 🙂

  5. Sorry you didn’t LOVE the ending, but this sounds like a good book overall. I’m glad to hear the author does the “stereotypes” well. It’s almost like The Breakfast Club – the all become a bit more than their label.

  6. Hahah to be honest this sounds like a story just about labels and personality, not about an asteroid destroying all earth! But I don’t know, I think I will still give this a shot, since you did like it 🙂 AWESOME REVIEW ZOE <3 <3

  7. Love how they all are a “label” on the outside, but are more complex underneath it, and are nice and friendly with each other, even though they’re not in the same circles, it seems. With you on the ending (read the spoiler) how can you end a book without knowing that? 🙁

  8. Although I absolutely fell in love with this book, I had the same misgivings Zoe about needing to know what happened as well. Open endings don’t sit well with me either. But for me (as cheesy as it sounds), it was more so about the journey than the destination. It was just so incredible, and a debut novel at that. Oh gosh, look at me all swoony like.

    Beautiful review Zoe <3

    1. I completely agree Kelly. I’m actually a huge fan of open endings, but this one was just a bit…too open, you know? But, like you said, it was still such an incredible debut regardless. xD

      Thank you!

  9. AHH I MUST GET THIS BOOK! 😀 I seriously love the way you described it — with all the labels and that asteroid that will kill everyone. So interesting 🙂 I hope to see this book in the bookstore this Saturday because I might actually buy more books for the week! Great review as always, Zoe!

    (oh and I have this strange prediction that nobody will die in the end, haha.)

  10. Lovely review Zoe! I really loved this book – the prose was so beautiful and there was a definite existential vibe coming through. It was definitely a good thing that the stereotypes went further than just being the same-old, and each character was so different. I do agree with what you said about the ending – it would have been nice to know what happened after such a big build up to the event!

    1. It sounds like we’re on the same page Eugenia! 🙂 I completely agree that it was an awesome exploration of stereotypes. If only the ending wasn’t quite as open. *sighs*

  11. I am really, really looking forward to reading this book. I pre ordered it, but haven’t had the chance yet. I am really glad to hear that it delivers on the thing I REALLY had hoped it would, which is the philosophical piece. That makes me extra happy, and it also kind of makes me want to drop everything and read it! I am glad you enjoyed it, lovely review 🙂

    1. If you’re looking for something philosophical Shannon, this is definitely going to be up your alley. 😉 Thank you!

  12. I really liked the characters in this book too! The stereotypes actually worked out to be quite the advantage in terms of character development (although tbh I wasn’t too invested in the romances). I actually predicted that the book would end the way it did so I wasn’t overly bothered by it, but I definitely get where you’re coming from. So open!

    1. I completely agree Nara. The way Wallach described and explored the stereotypes was definitely one of the highlights of the story. 🙂

  13. Ha! I love how you seem to know all the books I do! I don’t know many people who have read Life as We Know It so it makes me happy seeing you refer to it in your review!

    I feel like the whole asteroid thing is becoming more of a trope in YA although I feel like I want to see different things being done with it. SO MUCH POTENTIAL THERE.

    I am glad you enjoyed the book, Zoe! I do like how these completely different types of people become friends in the face of an imminent tragedy and I think those friendships will definitely be fun to read about!

    Great review! 🙂

    1. Twinsies! Ha! 😉

      And I agree. There is SO MUCH potential. Besides Life as We Knew It, I have yet to find one that has me completely blown away, you know? But this one was definitely close.

      Thank you!

  14. I read an ARC of this one, and was left shocked and a little angry about the ending. I do love that the author highlighted the stereotypes each character was labeled with, and their interactions now that the world was ending and there was no room left in people’s brains to continue stereotyping them. They really banned together and became great friends, and that’s always nice to see in YA and in real life, too.

    Great review!

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who wasn’t happy with the ending Mary Claire. But I definitely agree about the characters – the way he explored stereotypes was so refreshing and intriguing. Thank you!

  15. I’m really liking all the reviews I’ve seen of this novel so far, I don’t believe I’ve seen one negative review, most have been pretty positive. The sound of the characters sounds wonderful though, your review has me excited more now! Wonderful review.

    1. Yeah Benish! So glad you’re excited for this one! I hope if you end up reading it you like it as much as I did. 🙂

  16. Originally I wasn’t sure if I would like this kind of book, but your review has sold me. Although, I wasn’t a fan of Life As We Knew It, We All Looked Up seems like it will keep me interest better than the other. Great review! 🙂

  17. OMG ARE YOU SERIOUS?! The ending is open-ended? THAT’S WHAT I WAS AFRAID OF D: THE SUSPENSE OF WANTING TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WOULD BLOODY KILL ME. 🙁 But nevertheless, I want to read this one so, so bad. The philosophical aspect is tempting me too much!

    1. I think if I knew it was going to be so open-ended going into it it might not have bothered me as much as it did; so I’m curious what you think of it Faye.

  18. I’ve heard it’s labelled as The Breakfast Club meets an apocalypse haha, which is just amazing! I really enjoyed The Breakfast Club and how kids can truly break away from their assumed stereotypes if they can just give each other a chance. I’ve heard nothing but praise for this book, so I’m so excited to pick it up once I can find more free time. So glad you enjoyed it despite the open-ended finish…I looked in the spoiler tag and knew that was how it would end. That would really frustrate me too, gah! Lovely review Zoe! xx

    1. Breakfast Club meets the apocalypse describes it perfectly Joy. I think if I knew it was going to be so open-ended going into it it might not have bothered me as much as it did; so I’m curious what you think of it Joy.

  19. I’ve heard about this one before! It looks really good, but now I know it has an open ending, so IDK. I don’t always hate them, but it kind of takes the suspense out.^^ The characters and their friendship sound good though, and I’m liking the excerpts, so maybe I’ll give it a go!

    1. I think if I knew it was going to be so open-ended going into it it might not have bothered me as much as it did; so I’m curious what you think of it Missie.

  20. I just really don’t think I am interested in this book, even though I have seen and read quite a few positive reviews. I just don’t think it would capture me, as I am not a huge fan of the stereotype cliche (even if it is a bit shaken up in this book), and it just seems so completely heteronormative that I cannot find any reason to invest myself in it.

    The open ending would also annoy me, so I am 99% sure I am staying away from this one.

    Lovely review <3

  21. This is one I can’t decide whether to read or not! I’m a fan of open endings, but I can’t say this is an occasion I’d want one. You spend a lot of time waiting for something to happen and you have no idea whether it happens or not? Ummmm.

    1. I’m a fan of open endings as well Rachel, and this one was just a bit…too open for me. If you do decide to read it, I’m curious to see what you think of it.

  22. Can I comment first how cute your new look is? It’s been a long time since I stopped by because it’s been hectic for me. Haha I thought this was going to be a contemporary I didn’t expect it to have the apocalypse haha I have never read a book like that even with zombies, never. It weirdo me out hahah but I kinda like the stereotyping here. Great review Zoe!

    1. Aw…thank you Chyna! :blush:
      And it really is difficult to find an apocolyptic book with out zombies, isn’t it? 😉 Thank you!

  23. I was a bit miffed about the end at first, and then I read a comment Tommy Wallach made about why he ended it the way he did, which made me understand it a bit better (pretty sure it’s on his goodreads page, if you’re interested) 🙂 open endings are so frustrating for the most part though, I always want to know what the author intended!

    I really enjoyed this book though. Mostly because of the writing, it just gave it that extra oomph.

    1. Oooh! Thanks for the heads up on that Wattle! I’ll have to see if I can find that out. And I completely agree about the writing – it was wonderful!

  24. Awesome review!
    I used to be really intrigued by this type of premise. However, now, I feel like it’s one of those things that can turn out horrible if it’s not well done. Plus…open endings scare me. I am not going to read an entire book, just to have to make up the ending. That’s the author’s job. Unless it’s a rare occasion in which the open ending feels right. I am still excited for this one, though, and it was nice to hear your thoughts.

    1. I completely agree Olivia. There are times when open endings are amazing (The Giver by Lois Lowry comes to mind), but I just didn’t feel this was one of those times. 🙁 Thank you!

  25. The ending was definitely bittersweet for me. On the one hand I thought it was beautiful, but on the other we lost so many things (and people!) that I wish I could’ve had some clarification on that part. But overall I thought it was a brilliant book. Great review, Zoe! 🙂

  26. Omg i read this book for summer reading and i have never loved a book this much. i told all my friends about it. I love all the philosophical thoughts in it and it made me really think. This book is honestly a life changer.

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