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


-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.


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.


-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.


-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.

21 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!


    • 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.


      • Ally says:

        CT to celebrate another 30th birthday. In prep for the party…I found these Antipasto Skewers on Perfect 10 Cokboobos klog that I may have to attempt to make….they look super easy and super yummy. What I like about


    • 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!


    • 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.


      • just passing by says:

        Hey Emma,

        Just finished reading the book as well. I was wondering… how did the author make anita’s parents’ way of parenting race-based? Please note that i’m not trying to start an argument here and I’m genuinely curious because I did not get that vibe at all. In fact Anita’s colour didn’t even matter to me cause I thought the point of her POV was not her skin, but the problems of having oppressive parents that anyone of any colour can relate to.

        Also, the Jess-who-used-to-be–boy. i don’t think that was supposed to be derogatory. I think the author was just trying to convey a subconscious thought of probably anyone who comes across someone in transition.

        And… about the Eliza explaining sex thing… For me, it didn’t really seem so much as a fuckboy excuse. But more of like, just a girl having her own perception of sex. I mean it is true that sex to boys are like treats to puppies, and I do believe that there must be a percentage of girls who might feel that way. That boys are kind of slaves to their desires in a pure, uncontrolled way and that’s how girls can assert a hold over them – through the power of sex, which i think is briefly mentioned in the book.

        I gotta be real here. IF i were ever in Eliza’s position, when she was locked up in prison and a boy sneaks into my bunk bed earnestly begging for sex, I might have given it to him, because, what the heck.

        Lastly, i don’t think the teenagers are unlikeable at all. Sure they did some selfish things, but that’s part of the growing up process right? Sometimes they are inexperienced and do harmful things because they haven’t truly understood the consequences of their actions. So they have to fight through that process… and i think that’s what the book was trying to relate. the process of growing up and finding yourselves.

        Well i’m looking forward to your thoughts on this.

        For me the book was really relatable. It made me think about what I would do truly if I had only two months left to live. His writing was also unpretentious and flowed really well and I hope to find more books like this.

        Best regards,
        just passing by


      • emmareadstoomuch says:

        i’m really glad you enjoyed it more than i did!! it’s been a hot second since i read it, and i didn’t enjoy it so i barely remember it at all. i want to say that there were some generalizations made about black parents in the writing of Anita’s home life, which is why i included that point. & i don’t think it’s okay to refer to a transitioning person as someone who “used to be a boy,” because that person was never a boy in the ways that it mattered. i suppose we can agree to disagree on the eliza point! sorry i can’t write a more detailed response but i hope this suffices.


      • Noëlle says:

        I know that this will probably not be responded to as I’m ~super~ late in comparison to when you wrote this—I just finished WALU and saw your review on GoodReads. I agree with and disagree with some of your points, but as a black woman, I just really have to respond to your point about Anita’s race and her parents though. You wrote that Wallach making Anita’s parents’ parenting style being based on their race was what upset you. I can definitely see how Wallach writing that as a white man is problematic, but as a black woman I can tell you (from experience) that in many circumstances, this ~is~ the case. Many African Americans, like myself, grew up being told that we have to work harder than our peers, simply because we are black and the world might not treat us fairly unless we do so. Many black kids are taught by our parents to be stronger, smarter, faster, tougher in order to accomplish our goals, again, because we are black. So, in WALU, Anita’s parents pushing her to do well based on their race is not far off.
        “Only it wasn’t more money he wanted… It was a good little black girl with an Ivy League degree and a serious degree…” (pg 39). Maybe this statement wasn’t written as eloquently as it could have been but that doesn’t mean it’s “gross,” or furthermore inaccurate. A lot of black parents (who are well-intentioned) see their child’s success as personal vindication for whatever discrimination, oppression, or unfairness they have faced in life due to racism and prejudice. Doesn’t make it right but it is true in some cases.
        Granted, Wallach didn’t write/explain all of this as well as I’m trying to now, lol. My main criticism of race in the novel was how little it was mentioned and discussed. Maybe it was for the sake of “color blindness,” (which to me is unrealistic and not, like, a thing) but at times I felt that Anita was only made black in order to have a token person of color character. Nevertheless, his portrayal of her parents wasn’t entirely inaccurate from my own experience as a black kid growing up in white spaces. Perhaps glossed over but I can definitely identify with her and her family dynamic.
        OK, that’s all I got. Sorry for such a long answer! I hope that was all clear and maybe gives a better understanding.


      • NO WAY says:

        Just stumbled on this — I haven’t read the book but had a jaw agape moment reading your review b/c I happen to know that Tommy Wallach’s gay childhood friend with whom he now runs an escape room company was best friends in college with a trans man whose DEADNAME was Jess. Who I am (fairly?) certain Tommy knew or at least knew about, and who is now someone that has done really important work for trans lit via indie publishing. I can’t think of any context in which using that name isn’t kind of low key (or high key) violent.

        Liked by 1 person

      • emmareadstoomuch says:

        oh jesus what the fuck! i mostly don’t reply to comments on this review anymore b/c i wrote it ages ago so i can’t really defend my points, but i had to make an exception for this!!! what an unbelievably ugly thing. i need to re-review this trash so i can continue trashing it


  3. Aly D says:

    I read the book too and i completely agree with your points! The characters were bland and didn’t have much depth to them, and the way they described Jess was annoying and gross. When Peter died i didn’t even feel that sad because i didn’t get to really know him, and his character was so basic i just couldn’t get attached to him. Wallach says they “Leave their labels behind” but i don’t think they really ever did that. The characters stayed the same the whole time, the only thing that changed is they started hanging out together. Loved your review, it pointed out a lot of great things!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sandie Wikoff says:

    Nice to find someone who thought the same things about this trite POS! Not sure why he felt the need to define so many characters by race/ethnicity. The stereotypes were almost racist. The way he dealt with LGBQT was also fairly bigoted. “Mega-gay theater people”? In fact he is fairly judgemental in nearly all of his descriptions of all of his characters. Hardly a page was turned where I didn’t roll my eyes at his stereotypical remarks about everyone from punks to mothers to waitresses and dishwashers. The author has obviously lived an exceptionally privileged white guy life. I am BLOWN away that this was a Best Seller and received so many great reviews. Just goes to show the shallow/meaningless lives too many teens are living these days.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Goodness. I’m reading this right now and I’m not even one hundred pages in and I already don’t like it. I trust you in your reviews and, while I’m going to keep reading to write my own review, I’m not exactly thrilled to keep going. Lovely review, as always!! xx

    Liked by 1 person

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