Friday 27 March 2015

We All Looked Up, Tommy Wallach

Pages: 384
Publisher: S&S
Release Date: 26th March 2015
Edition: UK e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Before Ardor, 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 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.

I honestly hadn’t heard too much about We All Looked Up, but I love the premise of facing the end of the world with the stigmas of high school clinging to you.

Split between four narratives, Peter, Andy, Anita and Eliza tell their increasingly entwining stories of the final two months before an asteroid crashes into the Earth. All four protagonists have clearly defined labels attached to them in high school, much in the way of The Breakfast Club: Peter is the jock, Andy the slacker, Anita the brain, Eliza the slut (I hate that word, but that’s what’s used in the novel). All four of them were dying to break out of the boxes they had been put in but they either didn’t know how to or didn’t belong in them in the first place.

As the novel progresses, the four become friends, and more than friends, their labels dissolving as Seattle dissolves into chaos, violence and fear. I find it fascinating to read about the crumbling of society, especially in the face of no consequences – the militant actions of the government, the giving up and the desperate grabbing at the last tendrils of life. The clash of reactions and the dissolving of the rules people have lived by their entire lives throws everything into the air, leaving only the very important wants, desires and people, but also the ones you least expect.

Though I adored the message of We All Looked Up and the look at the crumbling of society there were a few things that I wanted more of. The asteroid moving into alignment with the Earth’s orbit has so much potential for science and environmental discussions as well as the reaction from the rest of the world in the beginning but there was barely anything. I wanted something in the way of how the disaster was examined in The Age of Miracles – it blended beautifully and really added something special to the novel.

The range of diversity in this novel was wonderful. It took note of race and sexuality subtly. It was to make a point or as a trope, characters like Anita and Jess are just part of the story. And yet there were some words used, some turns of phrase that made me slightly uncomfortable. The word ‘slut’ was used in regards to Eliza a lot but it wasn’t particularly comdemned and then towards the end it was revealed that Eliza’s sleeping round wasn’t for herself, it was to make someone else happy for a while. I’m still not quite sure how I felt about that revelation; I kind of wanted her to own it, take if for herself and not have to excuse how she uses her body. Though there were some brilliant comments on the continued sexualising and objectification of the bodies of girls and women which balanced it out a little.

Though We All Looked Up wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a story of dissolving labels and the reign of chaos at the end of the world and it’s a brilliant read.  

Thanks to S&S and NetGalley for the review copy.


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