Monday, February 1, 2016

We All Looked Up

We All Looked Up
Tommy Wallach
Simon and Schuster, 2015  384 pgs
Grades 9-Up
Science Fiction

Today's trend towards end-of-the-world fiction for teens meets the Breakfast Club in this first novel by new talent Wallach. Four teens from different high school social levels take turns narrating what could prove to be the end of the earth. A meteor is set on a path for Earth. It has a 66.6% chance of wiping out life as we know it. Basketball star, Peter, is already questioning his purpose and contribution to society. After the meteor threatens he dumps his long-term shallow girlfriend and explores the other avenues that his heart is leading him towards. Andy, skateboard slacker, questions his loyalty to self-destructive and mean-spirited best friend and learns to make his own choices instead of blindly following. Over achiever, Anita, finally rebels from the demanding expectations of her father to explore her true passion: music, even if it means giving up everything. Eliza, an artsy girl with a bad reputation, records with her camera the effects the threatening destruction are having on Seattle, the teen's hometown. The photos are posted onto her blog, which becomes the voice for young people during this crisis. The four young people are thrown together and form a "karass" a tern labeled by Kurt Vonnegut indicating a group of people who are cosmically linked. The karass works together to keep each other safe and to accomplish what they need to in order to set their houses in order before the potential end of the world.

New author, Wallach, throws his hat in the ring of the current glut of dystopian fiction for teens. We All Looked Up is less sci-fi and more believable than most of the latest offerings. Teenagers, who are naturally attracted to doomsday, will love the premise of this story. There are an equal amount of male and female characters, making it a great choice for both genders and it would work well for book discussion groups. The action keeps moving and, although the plot twists aren't entirely surprising, they are plentiful  and satisfying. Wallach manages to keep his four narrators very distinct and there is never confusion about who's eyes we are looking through. I did experience some confusion between the names of two of the characters. Anita and Eliza, which sound similar in my head and I kept getting them mixed-up. The couples we want to end up together do and the ones we don't break up. Adults are either dysfunctional, incapable or critically ill, leaving it up to the young people to clean up the mess the earth is left in. The grandstanding speech at the end had me rolling my eyes a bit, but teens will eat it up. I was not happy with the ambiguity at the end, but was expecting it. The ending will offer more fodder for discussion, but I would have been happier with commitment by the author. A fun book with a lot to bite into that's sure to be a hit with young people getting them all to yell a resounding: "YOLO"!

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