Wednesday, May 3, 2017

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

I'm a book nerd and, like all book nerds, I love a leisurely walk through a bookstore. I stumble across so many books I want to read someday. Recently on one such wandering, I stumbled across Tommy Wallach's We All Looked Up. There was something appealing about the cover and it was on a table with other books I had enjoyed, so I picked it up, liked what I saw in the description and added it to my TBR list. I didn't feel the need to purchase it right away, but thought I'd see if the library had it. Just a few weeks later I did find it at the library, at the book sale- my favorite sale in the whole world. I was able to purchase the hard cover edition for only $3! Sure, borrowing it from the library would have been free, but this way I'm donating to the library (I love the library!) and I get a physical book I can share with someone else!

Okay, enough about my library love affair- what's this book about anyway? Well, basically, the apocalypse. Told in the alternating points of view of Seattle teenagers Peter, Eliza, Andy, and Anita, the Earth is staring down the barrel of an enormous meteor that has a 66% chance of wiping out all life on the planet. With only eight weeks to impact, each of these main characters wonders how they should spend their last days. Peter, the All-American jock who had been headed for Stanford, may not want his last moments to be spent with the vapid girl he's been dating for too long. Eliza, the girl with the reputation, intends to document how the world is changing, even if no one will ever really see it. Andy, the slacker with zero plans, is pulled between power and his dreams. Anita, the buttoned-up straight A student aiming at Princeton, is certain she has to live her last bit of life the way she wants and not according to the plans of her ambitious father. Of course, with so little time left, the world goes predictably crazy, but these are teenagers so there is still plenty of social drama.

So did I enjoy reading this book? Sadly, not really. I had an inkling from the start that the writing in this book was going to annoy me and it did. There was some aura, some odor of pretension in the author's voice that I suspected would not appeal to me. I've talked in this blog before about how some YA just aggravates me without my being able to pin down the exact quality it either has or is lacking, but whatever it is, this book had (or didn't have) it. Many of the characters' actions seemed unlikely to me; the mistakes they made just frustrated me. Yet, I finished the book because I wanted to know what would happen. And it ended exactly the way I expected it to do. And I suppose that's fine.

Were there any good bits? Well, there were a couple of quotes that I enjoyed. At the very beginning, Peter is having a discussion with a teacher who asks him if he knows what it is that makes a book really good. Peter doesn't know, but here is the answer the teacher gives:

"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."

And in a conversation Andy, the slacker, has with the school counselor, Suzie, (a great character that needs her own book, actually) about his future, he claims he doesn't need to go to college because he doesn't care about money. She responds this way:

"It's not about the money. I'm glad you don't care about money. I'm talking about boredom. You think school is bad? A minimum-wage job makes school look like freaking Burning Man. Unless you have some kind of fetish for doing the same rote physical task eight million times a day."

When he claims that she is coming down on him too hard and that her job was to help people with the stress they have, not hand them more, she says:

"Strung-out people need to be chilled out. But chilled-out people maybe could use a good kick in the ass."

Much later in the book, in a conversation with Anita, Suzie tries to tell her there are still things she can be doing, that life still has purpose:

"There's still time for you to do things that matter. Even if it's just being there for someone who's freaking out."

Does it say something about me or about the book that the only parts I really liked were the ones that involved two adults at the high school? If YA is your thing, you may really like this one, but it just didn't have that something that I need in a book.

I think the word I'm looking for is depth. Or maybe not. 

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