Dystopian and apocalyptic novels are still quite popular among teens and rightfully so in my opinion. They usually have a little something to offer everyone: seeing the world through a different lens, some violence, character angst, and usually some love and relationship tension. We All Looked Up is a refreshing, unique, and page-turning novel that adds some depth that is quite different from some of the formulaic models for this particular genre in teen literature.
First: the cover. Can we talk for a moment about the cover? I am one of those slightly snobbish librarians/booksellers who DO judge a book by the cover. In fact, I think covers are so important for teen novels; covers need to grab them or many won’t go beyond that. We All Looked Up knocks it out of the ballpark with the cover. I wanted to read it just because of the cover. Luckily, the story lives up to the hype of the cover (and then some).
What would you do if an asteroid was racing towards Earth? You know that you have ten weeks before the world ends… or maybe it doesn’t… maybe the asteroid won’t hit the Earth?
Wallach’s cast of characters include the typical high school stereotypes: jock, stoner, overachiever, and free spirit with a reputation. Each are feeling the pressures associated with being in high school; dealing with family, friends, and expectations. The news of the asteroid changes life as they know it. Does it matter how you play in the basketball game? Is it important to get accepted into Princeton? As the asteroid hurls towards Earth – Peter, Eliza, Anita, and Andy struggle to figure out the roles they have in the life they lead.
The characters are real, the plot is twisting, and there are no easy answers. It may be a book about the Earth ending; but it is more importantly, a book about identity, connecting, and the human experience.
A favorite quote from the book:
“And there in the darkness of the hotel room, scarcely more than twenty-four hours before the maybe end of the world, the three of them managed to laugh together. It turned out that no amount of terror could stop the great human need to connect. Or maybe, Anita thought, terror was actually at the heart of that need. After all, every life ended in an apocalypse, in one way or another.”