Another apocalypse book this week, and it only gets better. We All Looked Up is a debut novel by Tommy Wallach, and I’m now very intrigued at what he’ll produce in the future, because WALU certainly delivers. We are following four teenagers in their senior year, preparing to face the world, instead they are facing the end of the world. An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, and there’s a 66.6% chance that it will collide with Earth causing mass extinction. And I loved it!I really enjoyed this book, despite the fact it is apocalyptic, it was just a really good book, and one I could connect with really easily. The book swaps between the four characters, Peter, Eliza, Anita and Andy quite often, but it flows well, ensuring that we rewind and jump forward as necessary to catch up on what’s happened with them while we were with another character. And I think it was done really well, I never felt confused about what was going on, so a really big kudos there. It was very exciting early on in the book to see the little connections between the characters staring to grow and develop.
The four characters are an odd bunch, who had a bit of history before the asteroid, but not much. There’s Peter the popular jock with the popular girlfriend, Eliza the photographer who has a reputation, Anita the highly strung overachieving girl and Andy the skating badboy. Actually thinking of how to ‘summarise’ them was difficult because of their complexities, so they are way much more than what I’ve said now, they are rich and full characters who truly do develop over the book. And of course it is the asteroid that brings them together, not without problems, but they come together, in ways you don’t really expect. There’s conflict but there’s also shall we say, love too.
So much actually happens in this book that I’m not even going to try to give a summary about it all, it also means there will be no spoilage. There was more carnage here than in last week’s apocalyptic book, The Age of Miracles, but that’s just because it’s a different set of characters, and a different audience. The story felt very real, like everything that was going on in the book could so easily be the case in real life. It’s gritty and raw, awful shit happens, but some really lovely stuff too. I found myself so engrossed in the world, that when I stopped reading it, I had to actually remember that no we weren’t facing an asteroid coming towards us, and that this was just happening in a book. It was really vivid, and I was picturing more than what I normally would do, so the imagery was perfect.
Apocalpytic stories are interesting in how they portray not the actual world ending event, but how humanity reacts. In this scenario, the world is given a few weeks notice of the impending asteroid. So what do you do? At what point do you stop going to work? To school? If everyone stops working, how will anyone have water or electricity? Does that mean people should be forced to go to work? And at what point does anarchy finally be allowed to rule? All these questions are so fascinating, and they were really well explored.
Beyond the societal issues, there’s all the personal ones. As a teenager how do you respond to the knowledge that you have a large chance that you’ll never get to grow older. Never have children. Never get married. You’re life will stop in a few weeks. You’ve hardly been able to live yet, it’s been school for 13 years, which is the stepping stone to actually getting a job and ‘having a life’. And what of the life you were thinking of living? Does it actually matter any more that you were going to follow your dreams of being an athlete or musician or doctor? Does it matter that you might die a virgin? Well, that last one certainly is a problem for one of our characters. So how do you want to spend your last days? And just what will it mean if in the end, the apocalypse doesn’t come? This last question wasn’t addressed too much really, yes it’s only a 33% chance of survival, but there that’s considerable.
I have to say that I just love the chapter demarcation, it’s a countdown of time until the asteroid hits, and it shows a schematic of the asteroid getting closer and closer. Certainly makes things ominous. Plus, I do enjoy reading a book which has actually been written recently which includes some more recent references to things, and does it in a way which doesn’t feel like, “hey look this is a thing people like, let’s include that so they see it and then feel better about our book”. And the ending is brilliant, made me close to tears (very high number of books this year are doing that!). And no, I won’t tell you how it ends, you’ll just have to read it for yourself 😛 ! All in all, an excellent piece of apocalyptic YA, most definitely worth a read!
Full disclosure, this is another ARC, meaning I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. And happy Easter to everyone, hope you are enjoying some time off, some time with family and friends, and some time reading a good book (like this one!).