All We Can Do Is Wait

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
All We Can Do Is Wait Book Poster Image
Teens face tragedy in compelling, edgy coming-of-ager.

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some geography, places of interest, and cultural insights into the Boston and Cape Cod areas of Massachusetts.

Positive Messages

Be there for each other. Find a way to be available to your loved ones in times of need because mutual support can help you get through difficult times. Don't let outside forces or your own fears keep you from reaching out to give and receive support and comfort. Be in the present, dream about the future, and don't worry about crossing bridges until you get to them. Grief will always hurt, but you'll feel better eventually. Until you do, well, all you can do is wait.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The large cast of teen characters all have flaws and strengths. The flaws are mostly about being stuck in the past, fear of facing the truth or the future, and staying emotionally distant. They discover unknown strengths in themselves and each other while they're in the middle of one of the worst situations imaginable. There are no villains; even the least-likable character inspires empathy as we get to know him. Common teen behaviors include smoking marijuana, social drinking, taking amphetamines, and sexual activity. A main character who's gay struggles with coming out; hiding his real self causes a lot of emotional damage to himself and his loved ones.

Violence

The plot involves a large-scale tragedy when a major bridge collapses in Boston causing massive casualties. A few people are described at the moment of the collapse and a few injuries are specifically mentioned without detail or gore. Other deaths mentioned but not described in detail involve a drunk-driving death and a person with a terminal illness who commits suicide. One character is physically abused by her boyfriend; his violent acts are remembered and mention blood, severe bruising, slamming into a mirror, throwing a lamp and a phone, and getting into fights at parties. Passing reference to someone as a "serial date rapist."

Sex

Kissing, making out, having sex, and falling in love in the past are mentioned but not described in detail, in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships.

Language

"S--t," "f--k," and lots of variations of each; "bitch," "hell," "asshole," "dick" (name calling), "tits," and "prick." Some sexual innuendo among friends.

Consumerism

A few specific tech, beverage, and clothing products, regulated drugs like "Oxy" and Xanax, and several Boston-area eateries.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult and a couple of teen characters drink heavily. A teen stole a case of champagne. Teens drink at parties; one death from drunk driving, a few mentions of hangovers and vomiting. A teen takes Adderall and Xanax. Teens smoke marijuana at parties and a couple smoke almost every day. A parent was addicted to "Oxy" and died before the story begins. An older teen smokes. Teens share an electronic cigarette once. A teen asks for a cigarette. Friends give a terminal cancer patient cigarettes saying they "can't hurt you now."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that All We Can Do Is Wait is an edgy coming-of-ager that explores grief, death, fear, friendship, love, family, and more. The plot centers on teens waiting in an emergency room to learn the fate of loved ones missing after a bridge collapse involving massive casualties; death, fear of the unknown, and grief are prominent themes. Other violence includes memories of an abuser who slams the girl into a mirror, grabs hard enough to leave dark bruises, and throws things. Blood's mentioned a few times along with some injuries, but there's no gore and no detail. Sexually active teens, in same-sex and opposite-sex couples, mention kissing, making out, and having sex, but nothing's described in detail. A gay character struggles with hiding his true self and coming out to his family. Strong language includes "s—t," "f—k," "tits," and more. A few characters drink heavily and regularly use marijuana and regulated drugs like Adderall and Xanax. Drinking at parties or while hanging out is frequently mentioned. A minor character smokes, and two teens share an electronic cigarette. Positive messages reinforce the need for people to be there for each other in bad times, and not to be afraid of the future but to face whatever it has in store for you.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In ALL WE CAN DO IS WAIT, a group of teens gathers in a Boston emergency room, each waiting to learn the fate of loved ones when a busy road bridge over the Mystic River collapses. As the wait drags on over many hours, the teens get to know one another bit by bit: who they're waiting for, what their lives are like, what events in the past have shaped them, and what they hope for the future. As they worry about the present and the future, they remember past events, exploring a wide range of emotions and experiences. But can they learn how to face grief, love, fear, determination, friends, family, and lives that will never be the same?

Is it any good?

Richard Lawson's debut is an edgy, compelling, unique, and moving tapestry of teens' lives and emotions. All We Can Do Is Wait plunks a group of teens into the not-terribly-interesting setting of a hospital waiting room and allows the drab backdrop to fade away as the spotlight shines on each character, taking them in turns while also weaving back and forth in time. There's always something to keep the pages turning, whether it's what happened that fateful summer or what happened to a sister who was driving across the bridge the moment it collapsed.

Although some characters are more likable than others, we can all feel empathy for them as they go through what for many of us is our worst nightmare realized. And amid all the grief, fear, and anxiety there's also a lot of hope for what we can become, and how we can get through the tough times together. Best for mature teens and up who can handle some of the edgy content involving alcohol, marijuana, and sex.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the drinking and drug use in All We Can Do Is Wait. Is it realistic? Are there any realistic consequences?

  • How much strong language is OK in books, movies, TV, etc.? Is it a big deal?

  • Which characters or messages resonated with you the most? Were any unrealistic, or hard to believe? What's your biggest takeaway about family, friendship, facing uncertainty?

Book details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate