Sunday, July 12, 2015

WE ALL LOOKED UP by Tommy Wallach - Unforgettable and Moving

"Some people think happiness is impossible in the face of death, but Epicurus tells us that there's no reason to fear death, because we don't get to meet it. While we exist, there is no death. And when death comes, we're not there anymore."

WE ALL LOOKED UP is about four high school seniors faced with a 66.6% chance an oncoming asteroid will hit the planet in two months.

Peter, the star basketball player, begins to question whether playing a game is the best way to spend his life. Anita, the overachiever, has been trying to prove herself to her parents her whole life. She's been on their path for her, not her own. She wants to be a singer, not a doctor or lawyer. Eliza is an the artist. After being called a slut for so long, she begins morph into one. Andy, the slacker, pretty much does whatever he wants most of the time.

After the news about the asteroid, they all begin to re-evaluate their lives. The four seniors are all loosely connected at the beginning, but over the coming weeks before the asteroid is due to hit, their lives become interconnected. Unexpected friendships form, love blooms, while other relationships are severed.

I don't know why, but I'm a sucker for these disaster themed books. Maybe because they seem more realistic than typical dystopians, if only because they are based on nature, rather than humans slowly turning wicked. A volcano, an asteroid - those are things that could crop up and alarm us at any time.

Anyway, this book succeeds in evoking the same eerie atmosphere created by my other favorite disaster books, ASHFALL and LIFE AS WE KNEW IT. The vivid descriptions of the desolate commercial centers that have been turned into blackened shells by looters and pyromaniacs, along with the rationing and fighting at grocery stores feel so real and frightening.

All four main characters are well written with moving stories. Even the minor characters are strong and memorable. (Peter's sister, Misery, and Golden, what a great villain.)

I highlighted many passages with descriptions that created such a perfect picture. Here's one for you. Peter is looking at a photo that Eliza captured. Her artist's eye shines in the passage.
Every school had a kid like this. He stood in the very center of the line, exactly where he was meant to be - a point of stillness - as the students diffused into a buzzing, slow-exposure swarm at either end of the frame. You could already see the tough years of puberty stretching out before him, a minefield strewn with awkward rejections on dance floors and lonely Friday nights. He was imprisoned within his upbringing. Doomed. (p 17)
Beautifully sad, and a crystal clear picture of this boy, right?

There are many more passages I could share, but I'd rather let you experience them when you read the book. And the book isn't all sad. It's also witty and funny. Overall, it's thoughtful, beautiful, sad, and hopeful. As the four teens consider how to use their last two months, you may also find yourself giving your time on earth some consideration.

The author is also a musician. His website has a full length album inspired by the book, with a free download. What a great way to combine these two talents. I look forward to whatever Tommy Wallach creates next.

Happy Reading!

And the trailer to pique your interest: