Partly an examination of human nature, partly a look at how we define ourselves, and partly a look at what would happen if the end of the world was coming. We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach proposes a thought-provoking “what if” scenario.
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.
Andrew Smith (author of Grasshopper Jungle) called We All Looked Up “this generation’s The Stand,” and I can see the comparison. Much as Stephen King’s classic examined how society would devolve in the event of an apocalyptic event, so, too, does We All Looked Up — which sees anarchy flourish, a military state imposed, and general lawlessness perpetuated. But that’s really only half of the story.
The other half of We All Looked Up is much more internal — as each of the main characters must decide how to spend their last few weeks on Earth. What kind of person do they want to be when the end comes? When college applications and grades and career plans no longer matter, what does? They have two months left to live — and We All Looked Up explores how these characters define living in their final moments.
We All Looked Up gave me a lot to ponder, and I really loved the different characters and seeing how they reacted to their situation. But a couple weeks after finishing the book, I’m still struggling with my feelings on the book. I like to read for escapism — and while We All Looked Up does offer that in its fantastical scenario, much of it is also rooted very harshly in reality, with its themes on death and dying. Difficult subjects to discuss and contemplate. And maybe that’s what I didn’t like about this book — how it forced me to contemplate these darker subjects. (What can I say, I like things light and fluffy.)
One thing I can say for certain is that We All Looked Up will give you plenty to think about. Look for it in stores March 24th.