If you were in high school and learned you had a 66.6% chance of dying from an asteroid headed for Earth, how would you spend your last two months? That’s the premise of Tommy Wallach‘s debut novel, We All Looked Up. Before you read any further, if you’ve gotten this far, the point of this blog post is this: buy this book and read it. It’s worth it in every way. When a book stays with me, when its pages in three days are already dog-eared, when its cover (such a fantastic feeling cover) blemished, when its pages have aged with fingerprints and smudges, it’s a great book. From the first page, I was hooked from this paragraph:
Stacy groaned. They’d already been talking about this for fifteen minutes, which, in Peter’s experience, was about fourteen minutes longer than his girlfriend liked to talk about any serious subject.
A couple of pages later:
He crossed the lunchroom, catching sight of his little sister’s newly dyed hair (the sink in their shared bathroom still looked like a leprechaun had thrown up and then died in it).
These aren’t even the best of the novel, but I love them still. I finished the book in about three days and could not put it down. I arrived late for an event because reading this book became my life. I hated to leave it alone, unfinished, not knowing. I felt sad, and a wee bit confused when I read the last page. More on that later. A favourite, local book shop‘s staff hires voracious readers who, much to my delight, hand write their thoughts/summary/review about books on a small placard placed beneath the books about which they are writing. Placed in the “Our Current Obsessions” section, this book’s placard mentioned “The Breakfast Club” film. That caught my eye. Even though it is a compliment to be compared with anything as iconic as “The Breakfast Club”, I feel it does somewhat diminish that to which it is being compared. We All Looked Up is, in its own right, a true work of art, and will be, if my insight and experience serve me well, iconic on its own two feet. I tend to view things I read two ways: as a reader and a writer. As a reader, Tommy Wallach’s novel is a fabulous read, building momentum with each “chapter.” Yes, the word “chapter” is in quotes because while there are not “traditional” chapters (a number or chapter title, for example), each “chapter” is named after the character from whose perspective it is written (not in first person, though). I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel with quite this structure, and I lost myself in the lives, in the world of the novel. As a writer, I could not stop my eyes, my mind, my heart, my soul from the wonderment of his written word. He weaves the characters and the story much like a race car driver or…a master basket weaver. (My apologies for those truly awful similes. I’m tired.) There are insights that made me laugh, certain areas of the book that made me cry, and others that made me downright hate the character of the moment. I’m unsure if I could pick a favourite character of the main ones because they are all so well developed. There are also two things that have got me a bit buggered, neither of which I can state here as they would be deemed “spoilers”. I refuse all spoilers for books, film, music, performances unless, of course, they have “SPOILER ALERT” written beforehand as fair warning. I will say this: one of those things that buggered me, which happens in one of the last few chapters (let’s call that Chapter P), is so subtle, that when I got to an even later chapter (let’s call that Chapter E), where the subtlety is outright mentioned, I had to go back to the Chapter P for re-reading. Still, I do not know the “how”. I searched the internet over trying to find an answer to “how”, and I found nothing. That left me hopeful that no one is writing spoilers but also mentally haggard because I still had no answer to the “how”. Even without that answer, when I want to re-read it the next day after finishing the last page, it’s a brilliant book.