A heart-wrenching novel about the dance between living life to the fullest and impending doom, Tommy Wallach’s “We All Looked Up” is the kind of book you will not want to put down, if you’re willing to pick it up.
When a faint blue star in the sky begins to look ominous, the world quickly learns that there is an asteroid coming with a 33 percent chance of flying past the Earth. With very slim chances of humanity surviving, readers meet four unlikely protagonists that narrate their respective chapters: high school seniors Peter, Anita, Eliza and Andy.
In the rainy city of Seattle, these four teenagers on the brink of adulthood watch as civilization begins to crumble. Is attending school even worth it when NASA declares they have two months until possible impact?
Before the asteroid, Peter struggles with relationships and the idea of being truly happy. Anita feels like a prisoner in her own house, one where she is expected to be the perfect daughter. Eliza deals with a broken family while wearing a figurative scarlet letter due to a mistake in her past. And Andy is just Andy, living life day to day.
But once the asteroid is at the forefront of every news station, the question in everyone’s minds is of what really matters when life is fleeting. Drug dealers and gangs begin destroying stores and terrorizing citizens. The police force starts arresting people for protesting against them. There’s even a party being planned for the end of the world.
I picked this book up at Unique, the thrift store a few blocks down from MC. I know that you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but that is what drew me to this book in the first place. The cover is simple yet profound as you can see in the accompanying picture. It also directly addresses the uncertainty of the asteroid hitting the Earth, as these teenagers look up into the universe, unsure of what will happen next.
Sometimes when I read, I get stuck in a rut and put a book down for weeks until I find the time or desire to get back into it. For this book, it was the first one in a while where I could not put it down. I’m a sucker for high school drama, which is why I love the storylines in things like Glee and High School Musical. But in “We All Looked Up”, this was not only a high school, coming-of-age story but also one full of existentialism and grasping the fickleness of life. Understanding those themes through the eyes of characters close to my age brought a sense of realism.
Overall, this is a book I would not necessarily reread or quite possibly not recommend either. It wasn’t a “perfect” book, but it had a good message and a riveting ending. I think what Wallach did best was creating that feeling of impending doom both through writing style and breaking up chapters with NASA-like images of an asteroid getting closer to our planet. There were some moments when I was reading that I forgot there wasn’t an actual asteroid coming to destroy the Earth. It took me a second to relax and let go of that anxiety, but in the end I was glad I had read this book.