I’ll admit that I have never thought of myself as a book reviewer, but given the amount of books I read and the amount of writing I do, I figured I might try it out, so here we go.
On Monday night I finished Tommy Wallach’s book ‘We All Looked Up’, and I will outrightly say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Warning now: SPOILERS.
I happened upon this book when I was out on an anxious walk around Guildford. I seem to remember feeling a bit heavy from the weight of exams and family stress and everything else that a Type A teenager deals with. Naturally, I went into Waterstones to try and alleviate this feeling. And what did I find? A buy one get one half off sale – how could I not! It had been ages since I’d bought a book and literary therapy is to me as retail therapy is to Carrie Bradshaw.
I remember being taken by the cover of the book; something about it just seemed to radiate promise – which I then learned was incredibly ironic as the book is about the end of the world. Written from multiple perspectives, the story rotates around Peter, Eliza, Anita, Andy, and their friends as they all come to term with the fact that they have two months to live. The book also includes a love triangle and how each of the above mentioned characters come to terms with the fact that they all crave the love of another before the end.
However, this book isn’t about an asteroid ending the world, just as ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ isn’t a book about two teenagers with cancer. Wallach concerns himself more with the human reaction to the impending tragedy than the scientific consequences of its occurrence. His teenage characters come alive with uncertainty regarding their futures and the outright desire to make the most of the time they have left.
One thing that is noticeable throughout the novel is change. The characters develop and evolve and adapt themselves to the environment around them, but it really is refreshing to see that one character, Bobo, takes a turn for the worst and crumbles under the pressures of death. He begins as a questionable character, and towards the end of the book he descends further into madness and shows his true colours. Andy also began as a similar kind of character, however he ascends his stereotype in pursuit of girl, so his rise and Bobo’s falls contrast well and seem to convey the ‘fight or flight’ response in the face of danger.
The two female protagonists seem to counter each other as well; Eliza as the promiscuous daredevil with a reputation and Anita as the reserved mystery with an eye for photography. They also act as sparks for the match of romance which very quickly leads to confict between the four protagonists, but what is teen romance without a bit of drama? Towards the end of the book we learn that Eliza has her ‘slutty’ reputation not so much because she enjoys sleeping around, but more because of the pleasure she knows it brings the boy she is with. I thought this was a really interesting way for Wallach to look at the stereotypical ‘slut’ because it makes her seem more like a fallen angel than a cunning demon, and it also lends a vulnerable nature to the character of Eliza, something Anita latches on to immediately. Anita is a virgin up until the very end of the book, again, creating a difference between the two girls. It is finally when she and Andy realise their mutual adoration for each other that they come together at the very end and find something meaningful.
All in all, a great debut by Tommy Wallach and I’m really looking forward to listening to the album that goes along with this novel.
As always, keep dreaming,