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Book Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Imagine if The Breakfast Club was set not during Saturday detention but instead was set during the weeks leading up to the apocalypse.


In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions, We All Looked Up is a story about Andy (the stoner punk who’s in the charmingly named band Perineum), Eliza (the artist with a reputation for being easy), Anita (the perfect good girl headed to Princeton), and Peter (the athlete having an existential crisis), who are brought together by an asteroid. The world is thrown into chaos when scientists decide that the asteroid is 66.6% likely to collide with Earth. Everyone has 7 or 8 weeks to just wait for this to (potentially) happen.


What do you do when it seems certain the world will end? Well, you start to reassess your priorities, apparently. You wonder if you’ve wasted your life. You shake things up. Andy decides that these four (plus a few other friends and not-really-friends) are part of a “karass”—that is, a group of people somehow linked together (which Andy takes from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle). Together, they explore interests and relationships now that it seems like there’s nothing to lose.


Things take a dark turn as more time passes and Seattle (where the story is set) becomes rife with riots, looting, and general lawlessness. Food and other supplies become rationed, police are everywhere, and no one knows who to trust. Protests are planned, rallies are planned, and even a Party at the End of the World is planned. But plans are hard to carry out when chaos is swirling everywhere. Eliza lands in prison, along with many other young adults, and the other three work together to set Eliza and the other prisoners free. From here on out, everything is madness. Hook-ups, break-ups, fights with drug dealers, gunshots, and more all happen in the last days before the karass find out the fate of the world. Things get scary, violent, and gruesome. Even if the asteroid misses Earth, the lives of these teens will never be the same. 


Wallach succeeds in making this apocalyptic story stand apart from others on this subject. The tension is really ratcheted up in the last quarter of the novel, which is fitting, of course, as that asteroid is nearly here—I’d imagine things would become completely bonkers by then. The writing, characters, and dialogue are all exceptional. Wallach can really turn a phrase: “Today was just another shit day in a life that sometimes felt like a factory specializing in the construction of shit days.” Dark, funny, and philosophical, this will have wide appeal. Looking forward to more books from Wallach in the future.


ISBN-13: 9781481418775

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Publication date: 3/24/2015

Review copy courtesy of Edelweiss 

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