I got this book from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.
Multiple people narration seems to be the trendy thing in YA literature. It's safe in that, if you give a reader several narrators, they'll probably really relate to one of those. It's risky because many times it gets confusing to read and there's not enough depth to any of the characters to make the story really interesting.
However, YA writers keep trying and Tommy Wallach is no exception. But how well did he pull this off?
Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.
They always say that high school is the best time of your life.
Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.
Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.
So four main characters means that this book reads mostly like a character piece. To review it fairly, I'll discuss the story of all four characters from favourite to least favourite.
Oh Peter. His narrative is the first one in the book and also my favourite. Though he starts off so very cliché (dumb jock that wants more from life but can't figure out how), the reader soon figures out that he's anything but cliché. The thing I really liked about Peter? He's nice. Just really really nice. No alternative motives or big plans - Peter is just nice to people and always believes the best in everyone. I loved that about him, because there are not many nice guy narrators around. He's a jock, he's kinda dumb and you can't help but love him because he loves everyone else. Just a small warning: he will break your heart.
Anita; another cliché at the beginning who turns out to be so much more. I loved the fact that she's the brainy girl and she's African American! Finally some diversity! She's trying to please her parents while also finding her own way and she really struggles with that more than the average teen does. In the end, she's so likeable because she's witty and tries to do the right thing whenever she can and you can't help but admire her for that.
I wasn't sure whether to rate Andy or Eliza third, since they both really annoyed me for several different reasons. With Andy, I just didn't get him. At all. I didn't get why he did what he did, I didn't understand his thought process and if I had to read one more time about him thinking about sex, I would have gone crazy. I couldn't relate to him at all, but he did do some entertaining things that made the story more fun to read so I could handle him. Plus I think other readers will understand him better than I did.
Who I couldn't handle was Eliza - the gorgeous girl who doesn't believe she's gorgeous but everyone else thinks she is. Yawn. I liked her in the beginning because she slept around and she talked about it like it was empowering to her. Finally a YA book where female virginity isn't held up like the crème de la crème - Eliza wasn't scared to use her sexuality to please herself and others. Unfortunately at the end, she says she regrets all the guys she has slept with, she's embarrassed and doesn't want to do it anymore. I felt bad for her, her father is dying and her mother is missing, but I wish she would have been so much less cliché at the end. Maybe what I hated most about Eliza was the fact that I really liked her in the beginning and was just so disappointed in her character development.
So multiple people as narrators...
Did it work? I think Tommy Wallach is one of the few authors I've read who was really successful in juggling four different narrations. Though I didn't like all the characters, they all had enough depth to be enjoyable to read and I think other people will like the characters I disliked - it's a taste thing. Since it's a tale about the world possibly ending, I think seeing how that fact changes several people's lives is very effective - it just makes it more interesting and realistic. Everyone is different and everyone responds different to the threat of an ending world.
We All Looked Up is a solid four. I didn't really like the ending nor all the characters, but the writing is fast paced, easy to read and the concept of an ending world in a contemporary book works really well. I definitely enjoyed it and I think almost everyone can find something to love in this book.