by Tommy Wallach
Publication: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on March 24, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Contemporary, Dystopia, Coming of Age
Before Ardor came, we let ourselves be defined by labels -
But then we all looked up, and everything changed. They said the asteroid 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.
Cleverly thought out and executed, We All Looked Up is a 2015 debut novel to remember. Rooted in modern day yet stretching far into the distant reaches of space and the uncertainty of the future, these pages will haunt, inspire, and ultimately - awe.
From the moment I first caught glimpse of this brilliantly designed cover, I was instantly intrigued. There's definitely something about the nature of the cover design that catches your eye. Every visit to the bookstore, I'd pass by this considerably attractive cover just . . . waiting, begging to be read. Anyway, you know how it goes: My heart said yes, but my wallet said no.
Thankfully, the Hawaii State Public Library System came to my rescue once again. (Thanks a million, public libraries!!) I found this shining star of a book on the new book shelf patiently waiting to be checked out.
There are so many pluses to this read. First off, Tommy Wallach's writing itself: totally ground-shifting, heart-moving, emotion-provoking stuff. He has that special touch to his writing only a select few possess. He knows exactly how to spin together his words to create something bigger and more beautiful than its parts. Thank you, Tommy Wallach, for sharing your gift with the world.
"The best books, they don't talk about things you never thought about before. They talk about things you'd always thought about, but that you didn't think anyone else had thought about. You read them, and suddenly you're a little bit less alone in the world. You're part of this cosmic community of people who've thought about this thing, whatever it happens to be."
If you're a frequent reader of my reviews, you probably already know that I am not a usual fan of POV shifts. But this book? Damn, it made me a fan. The story is told from the perspectives of four high school kids: the "athlete", Peter, the "slut", Eliza, the "slacker", Andy, and the "overachiever", Anita. Wallach took these typical high school labels and managed to brilliantly bring each character to life. I relished each character and every chapter. They are all written so truthfully and so honestly . . . it will break your heart.
Golden cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted across the lightless city, "I existed, goddamn it! Say it with me!""I existed!" Bobo said."I existed, goddamn it!""I existed, goddamn it!""Again!""I existed, goddamn it!""Again!""I existed, goddamn it!"Then they were both saying it, over and over again, and then the call was coming from all around them, from everyone up on the roof, like a war cry. But for some reason, Andy couldn't bring himself to join in.
What made the book even more impactful was the fact that it took place in real time. Current time. Like, same President and everything time. Now. The contrast between the unbelievability of an asteroid hurtling towards Earth to wipe out humanity and the fact that the story is set in modern day, made for one impossible-to-forget novel. I swear, certain black-inked words are forever imprinted in my mind.
"Life sucks," Andy said. A cliché, sure, but that didn't make it any less true.
Bobo nodded. "Blame it on the blue star," he said, purposely misquoting Radiohead.
Andy figured it was as good a scapegoat as any. He raised his middle finger toward the sky.
"Fuck you, star."
This book took me a bit by surprise . . . I expected a good book, but I didn't expect something as powerful as what I read. There were moments (especially towards the end) that made me shed a few tears. I didn't realize the Wallach's words were hitting me so forcefully until then.
Eliza watched them go. Then she lifted up Peter's head and placed it gently on her lap. She waited for the coughing to stop.
"I wish we had more time," he finally said.
I don't suppose there's much of anything else left to say. Read this book.
She looked up toward the sky, toward the implacable sparkle of good old Ardor, and saw that the two of them - she and the asteroid - were caught up in a battle of wills. In that moment, she stopped being afraid of it, even dared it to come, because she knew there was no way it could crave death as much as she craved life.
Like Ardor, the asteroid, this book is one in a million. One in a billion. And it will hit you right in the gut.