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.
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
-and, as always, general stupidity
Let’s go one by one, shall we?
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
-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.