Publisher: Simon and Schuster Australia
Release Date: 26th March 2015
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Emotions & Feelings, Friendship, Love & Romance, People & Places, Young Adult
Before the asteroid we let ourselves be defined by labels:
The athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever.
But then we all looked up and everything changed.
They said it would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to become something bigger than what we'd been, something that would last even after the end.
Two months to really live.
Every once in a while you come across a book that is really hard to explain in words for one reason or another. WE ALL LOOKED UP is one of those books for me, because I finished it three weeks ago and haven’t had time to pen my thoughts until now, and because reading it was sort of a surreal experience, for the first half anyway.
What was surreal about it? In the first half of WE ALL LOOKED UP I read so many concepts and ideas I had thought about and struggled with before. The characters are in their final year of high school, trying to figure out if what they’re doing now and what they want to do in the future is meaningful or just a waste of time. This exact situation was my life a little under three years ago, and those memories are still fresh because these questions I, and many other young adults, continue to ask myself. And I don’t even have that whole “an asteroid may hit the Earth in two months and obliterate two thirds of life” pressure.
“The best books, they don’t talk about things you never thought of before. They talk about things you always thought about, but that you didn’t think anyone else had thought about. You read them, and suddenly you’re not alone in the world.” p. 11
The most fascinating part of WE ALL LOOKED UP was seeing how different types of people reacted to this potential impending doom. Can you imagine living with a deadline, waiting for the penultimate moment when it could all possible end? Would you keep doing what you’re doing or change your entire lifestyle? The four teens in WE ALL LOOKED UP came from different backgrounds and all reacted in different ways. Some of it was scary, some of it was weird, and some was probably what I would do. There was also a lot of substance abuse, gangs taking over streets, and violence and anarchy.
“Do you think it’s better to fail at something worthwhile, or succeed at something meaningless?” p. 12
Another aspect of WE ALL LOOKED UP I loved was the writing. I already mentioned how Wallach manage to put words I never entirely realised other people thought and put them on a page. Well he didn’t just put the thoughts on paper, he also explained the concepts in the best way possible. Everything was constructed beautifully. So many quotes were marked in the first half of this novel. I have three pages filled in my reading notebook dedicated to this book.
“Why had he assumed time was some kind of infinite source? Now the hourglass had busted open, and what he’d always assumed was just a bunch of sand turned out to be a million tiny diamonds.” p. 86
Unfortunately WE ALL LOOKED UP didn’t maintain the incredibly high standard all the way to the final page. Things got a bit… meh at times in a second half, which sucks because I was so prepared to give this book 5 stars just for the first half. It wasn’t terrible, but it definitely wasn’t on the same level. Most of the problem I had with the second half was the movement away from general human reactions and interesting things to annoying teenage drama.
Teen drama is not entirely unexpected, it is a contemporary after all, but I wasn’t expecting there to be such a focus on it in this book. The drama also revolves around a love quadrangle and romance I couldn’t really get behind. Then there’s the gang/anarchist aspect and sudden action and psychopathic actions of some side characters that lead to an unexpected character death. That stuff was interesting, but also felt kind of weird and sudden and out of place.
That teenage drama part of the plot was literally the only issue I had with WE ALL LOOKED UP. Everything else I loved, from the characters who were all relateable to the writing and themes this novel presented. This contemporary made me think about life and the future, and that’s what I love my contemporaries to do more than anything.