We All Looked Up Review

Synopsis: Before the asteroid we let ourselves be defined by labels:
The athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever.

But then we all looked up and everything changed.

They said it would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to become something bigger than what we’d been, something that would last even after the end.

Two months to really live.

Review: 1/5

Hey, Tommy Wallach, Urban Dictionary called! They want to know if they can use the entirety of this book as the example of their definition of “mansplaining”!

If you don’t like that one, I also considered this: Tommy, my man, Ayn Rand called! She wants to congratulate you on using fiction as a vehicle for your beliefs even more than she did with f*cking Atlas Shrugged!

Hi, babes. I’m pissed.

When I read the first dozen-or-so pages of this book, I was thrilled. I almost unhauled this book and then figured I might as well give it a shot. From the get-go I loved Wallach’s writing style (and by style I mean word choice, NOT CONTENT, bleh) and I thought there was some promise to the premise. (Lol.)

Oh my god, I thought. Did I almost donate a book I’ll end up giving 5-stars?

No, dear reader. Not at all.

Many of you know that the second I take out my teeny book-review notebook, I’m about to be one angry reader. This case was far from an exception. Here’s a list of the general categories of what Bugged me with a capital B:

-coverage of social issues (especially race, sexism; also including LGBT+)

-characters (specifically the female ones)

-choice of genre

-pacing

-and, as always, general stupidity

Let’s go one by one, shall we?

SOCIAL ISSUES

-race

This was my first warning sign for this book. I have no problem with white authors writing POC characters, obviously, because diversity is so, so important in YA books. What I have a problem with is a white male doing it like Wallach does here. The entire thing screams of a white guy who thinks he has race “figured out” and now desperately wants to spread his knowledge around. The thing is, he obviously has nothing figured out. The character of Anita is black, and she has a difficult relationship with her parents, who push her too hard. The way Wallach treats this issue is deeply uncomfortable and based on senseless, unfounded generalizations. Simply put, it’s gross.

-LGBT

Can you say plot device? There was a transgender character who was never mentioned without a reminder that he was trans: once, he’s even referenced as “Jess-who-used-to-be-a-girl.” This is the only example of a character that isn’t cis and straight as they come. Unless you count darling Eliza’s forcefully included interest in experimentation. (I don’t.)

-sexism

The sexism in this book was slow to emerge. (It’s like that saying about the frog in the pot of boiling water. If you give Emma a book that is sexist from the start, she’ll put it down right away. If you give Emma a book that slowly turns up the sexism, she’ll keep reading – so she can review your terrible book and f*cking end you.) But when it got there, hoo, boy, did it arrive. This is a multiple-perspective book, and two of the POVs are female: Anita and Eliza. Eliza is a beautiful girl who has sex, and Anita is a beautiful girl who aspires to. Snooze.

For having one of his characters justify not liking The Great Gatsby by saying Fitzgerald didn’t like women, Wallach sure doesn’t seem to like females here. Gender roles abound (when a character’s family is described as uber-normal: “His dad had some kind of job that involved an office and suits and ties, and his mom stayed at home and cooked things and generally acted mom-ish.” Like, are you kidding me?!) and Wallach’s research for his female characters seems to have been just through bad sitcoms (“‘Boys never understand anything,’ Anita said, and though it didn’t technically follow from what they’d been talking about, it was the kind of statement that was always appropriate—at least in a roomful of girls”). And the worst offense in my book: Eliza is the biggest manic pixie dream girl since Kirsten Dunst in f*cking Elizabethtown. (Maybe that’s where she got her name.) I CAN’T STAND when male authors are clearly writing their ideal woman as a character, and I’ve never seen it done more than it is here. Eliza’s explanation of why she has sex is the most disgustingly-f*ckboy thing I’ve ever read: “I think we have this idea that it’s bad, the way dudes are always thinking about sex. But to me, it’s always seemed really pure. Like a puppy wanting a treat. And it starts to seem like such a little thing to do to make somebody so happy.” GAG ME.

CHARACTERS

-boring/flat

Peter is the most vanilla male character I have EVER read. His only traits are: a) he plays basketball and b) he is nice. What a snoozefest. Andy is also so, so boring. His traits, you ask? He, um, says “yo” a lot. Uh…another trait, another trait – oh! He – he skateboards! Eliza is simply a manic pixie dream girl. Anita’s only characteristic is her quest to follow that trope where someone used to be obsessed with school and then follows their real dreams. Each of these characters is just a stereotype. And not even fun stereotypes. (The jock, the rebel, the manic-pixie-dream-girl, the academic: sounds like the world’s worst remake of The Breakfast Club.)

-unlikable

Here’s a by-no-means-exhaustive list of things the characters we are supposed to like have done: Tased another character for no reason; hooked up with a character a) who is in love with her b) while being in love with another character c) who the fourth main character is in love with; dated a vapid girl for months despite cheating on her and liking another girl; not stood up for said object of love when said vapid girl bullied her and ruined her entire life; looted malls; set buildings on fire; been best friends with a legit psycho; lived in a hotel with a literally evil gang; forgotten about their dad who has terminal cancer for 3/4 of the book; been obsessed with a girl they didn’t know and not take no for an answer; I could go on but I’m re-angering myself.

-sheer number of them

Every single character with a line of dialogue in this book has a name. Characters introduced in the beginning and given more traits than our leads have no payoff, they just drop off the face of the earth. THERE’S JUST WAY TOO MANY.

CHOICE OF GENRE

Just that this shouldn’t have been YA. It doesn’t fit. Seems like just because Wallach wanted to write a high school they published this as young adult, and I’d argue it’s not.

PACING

-so slow

The book begins two months before the end of the world is due to take place. And it shows. The plot of this (if you can find one) is like molasses. So tiring.

GENERAL STUPIDITY

-two approximately sixteen-year-old male jocks drank “a whole lukewarm six-pack” – that’s 3 beers apiece. That’s not getting anybody drunk. Don’t say “whole” like that’s impressive. Come on.

-Obama is the president in this book. Few things about that. 1) traditionally in books/movies/etc., the actual president isn’t used because it’s so hard to capture a real person’s voice like that. Especially a politician. Wallach gives Obama a half-page of dialogue, and the voice is bizarre. 2) Michelle cries at a press conference in this. MICHELLE. WOULD. NEVER.

-our lovely Eliza runs an inexplicably popular photography blog, and when she’s getting interviewed on livestream (already weird) the journalist says she has to ask if Eliza is seeing anyone. That doesn’t fit thematically, characteristically (what we see of the journalist indicates she would never give a sh*t), or realistically (no one would care about a photographer’s relationship status. Sorry).

I’m sorry this was so long. I’ve never read a book so ideologically offensive in my entire life. Now I’m going to watch Tangled so I can feel whole again.

Bottom line: no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

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7 thoughts on “We All Looked Up Review

  1. Mila says:

    Wow, this is bad. I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews on Goodreads but based on what you described here I don’t think I’d like it.
    Especially Eliza, that bit on why she wanted to have sex really creeped me out.

    Great review!

    Like

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      thank you! it was so, so well-written and the concept was good, so i really wanted to like it. but there were so many terrible aspects to it that i just couldn’t.

      Like

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      thanks doll! true, he managed to finish a book – and a well-written one at that! – but i’m sure if you were to finish a book it’d be a lot less gross than this one!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Emily says:

    Yikes. I really enjoyed it. I can see some of your points, but not all…

    1) Parent push their kids. Some push very hard. Black or white. Doesn’t matter. I’ve never known black parents to push their children to succeed anymore than white parents. So I’m kinda not understanding why you find it gross?

    2) Three beers in a short amount of time is absolutely enough to get somebody drunk!!! Especially a child. I’ve been drinking for over a decade and three drinks in two hours… I can tell you what, I’m not driving that’s for sure. And I can hold down some hard liquor.

    3) Eliza. Sigh. I guess you love her or hate her. Relate to her or ya don’t. I was Eliza growing up, hell, I’m still Eliza now! My only point is wrong or right, there are girls out there, women out there, who are like Eliza. We exist, we are not just made up in a f*uckboys head. We are real.
    Wallach talks about Peters mother being a stay at home mom and somehow this means he doesn’t like women? How is that sexist? It is still statistically the “norm” as far as gender rolls go. And perhaps that was the norm that he grew up with, perhaps that’s the norm that he prefers.

    I do agree that the characters did some unlikable things. But people are unlikable, they do horrible things. Teenagers are especially unlikable at times and do especially unlikable things. I would imagine if it was the end of the world those things would be far worse. There were times I hate the selfishness of the characters, but then I remembered how selfish (or stupid) someone can be at 16-18 without real responsibilities. So it just made sense.

    The Eliza interview was very odd and out of place.

    The whole Jess thing really pissed me off.

    And Michelle would have totally cried. As a mother, I don’t doubt this for a second in that situation.

    Thank you for your review! I love other people’s opinions!!

    Happy reading!

    Like

    • emmareadstoomuch says:

      oh, gosh. i am glad you liked this book, i really am. i’ll try to respond to some of your points, but i hope you understand if i don’t try to refute all of them:
      i’m not saying black parents push their children more than white parents, i’m saying that wallach made anita’s parents’ style of parenting race-based, which i think is gross, especially from a white man.
      i’m surprised you relate to eliza, but we don’t know each other, and far be it from me to take it upon myself to ruin a character for someone else…
      i can’t move past your remark on stay at home moms, though. according to the US Bureau for Labor Statistics, about 1/4 of moms were stay at home moms as of 2012. that’s far from the majority. and i really don’t care what wallach prefers for women to do, because he’s a man, and that’s none of his business. i’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being a stay at home mom – my mom is. i’m saying that reducing the role of a mother to cooking and cleaning is offensive to me. moms are so much more than that.
      i think michelle obama would have been strong for her country in that moment, but in the end i have no proof for that. neither of us do. that was really just a joke.
      as a teenager (for the next 9 or so months at least) i can’t buy the teenager excuse. characters should still be good characters, despite age or circumstance. and i did not get that at all here.

      thanks for your response! have a lovely day.

      Like

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