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We All Looked Up

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
We All Looked Up Book Poster Image
Strong writing lifts angsty apocalypse scenario.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Definitions of "Pyrrhic victory," "categorical imperative," and "utilitarianism." A "karass" is defined and its source from Kurt Vonnegut identified. A few beginner phrases in Spanish aren't translated but are understandable from context. A quote from To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Origin of the word "revelation." Historical significance of Sand Point Airfield. Experience Music Project briefly explained. Some geography of Seattle and a few points of interest.

Positive Messages

Life is short and could end at any moment, so make the most of it while you can. Time is not an infinite resource, so do what you want when you want. Hold on tight to your loved ones.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Almost all characters, all teens, drink alcohol frequently and to excess. Some smoke cigarettes and marijuana and cut school or blow off homework; others are high-achieving "popular" kids whose behavior is better. But all are basically good, decent human beings making mistakes as they try to figure out growing up and what life should be about; and all reach mature conclusions and do the right thing in the end.

Violence

Past suicide attempt mentioned; suicide briefly implied as a way to escape world-ending event. Several fights with punching, kicking, drawing blood; gory description of injuries from a severe beating. Gun brandished a couple of times, gunshot heard once, brief description of gunshot wound. Victim of attempted rape stabs and kills attacker. Police in riot gear throw tear gas. Tasering described; victim falls and cuts head. Molotov cocktails thrown. Several acts of arson, including one detailed description of using lots of bottles of vodka to burn down a large chain store.

Sex

Kissing and making out described briefly. Teens think and talk about losing virginity; two teens bet whether one will have sex before world-ending event. Erectile dysfunction, masturbation, and syphilis mentioned. Dancers mimic doggy-style sex. People seen moving slowly under covers. One incident of intercourse described vaguely. One character uses sexuality to exercise some control over herself and the world around her. One make-out session almost leads to sex.

Language

Frequently used:  "s--t," "f--k," "ass," and lots of variations of each. Infrequently: "pissed," "slut," "suck," "screw," "bitch," "d--k," "balls," "p---y," "boobs," "c--k," and "nut up." Middle-finger gesture. "Gay" as a pejorative once.

Consumerism

Usually to establish mood or character, a wide variety of brand names, each used once or twice and mostly of restaurants, snack foods, beverages, alcoholic beverages, clothing stores, car makes, and bands or musical acts. An end note promotes the author's companion album to the book and directs readers to the author's website for a free download and buying links for the album.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Most teen characters drink alcohol frequently and to excess. All are matter of fact, even blasé, about marijuana use, which is frequently mentioned. A margarita is laced with Valium. High-school senior looks forward to party-heavy frat lifestyle at college. A couple of teens smoke cigarettes habitually; people smelling of smoke are mentioned several times. "Blunt" mentioned. Hallucinogenic tea's effects described. Heroin mentioned a few times.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that We All Looked Up is a debut novel from a "singer-songwriter and novelist." Bands and songs are frequently mentioned, and a note at the end promotes author Tommy Wallach's companion album to the book. High school seniors frequently drink, smoke marijuana, think or talk about sex, and use a wide variety of strong profanity (most often "f--k," "s--t," "ass" and their variations). Growing up and figuring out what really matters in life, as well as how to hang on to hope, are magnified and explored in depth as the teen characters face a possibly world-ending apocalyptic event.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymarie_ambrosia June 3, 2015

Age-rating is off

I am a teacher and I had read the review on here before reading the book. The review suggested that there was "some" drug-use and other negative elem... Continue reading
Adult Written bytobier March 4, 2016
A bit heavy (obviously. It´s a story about the end of the world). Almost too...complex? (That´s not the right word, but I don´t know how to say it.) Great read... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byCosmicR September 1, 2016

Yes

Honestly I loved this book to pieces. The story was amazing, the characters felt real and relatable and by the end I was so attached to them. I didn't want... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byReevec151 March 2, 2017

We all looked up

Great book! 300+ pgs but don't leave it in the middle. The action gets going around pg 150 and it gets a little too far in discriptions at times but if you... Continue reading

What's the story?

Scientists predict that an asteroid big enough to destroy large swaths of life will hit in two months. People are going to have to decide, and quickly, what their lives are really about. Things that seemed so important before are meaningless without a future. So what does that leave? Four high school seniors in Seattle find out whether what they thought about themselves and each other was right, what's worth holding on to, and how to live every day as if it's your last.

Is it any good?

WE ALL LOOKED UP is a strong debut novel from Tommy Wallach. The solid writing, utterly believable characters, and deft handling of multiple points of view elevate what could have been a hackneyed or clichéd doomsday scenario to something fresh and compelling. Mature teens who can handle matter-of-fact attitudes toward drinking, drugs, and sex will find themselves rooting for the large cast of characters as they struggle with what's really important in life. The plot builds at a steady pace that'll keep the pages turning. Some may find the ending unsatisfying, but it should further spark the imagination and lead to a lot of reflection about life and what we make of it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about end-of-the-world scenarios. Why do so many books and movies use that premise? What are some other ways to explore the same ideas?

  • Did you notice the note at the end about the album that goes with the book? Do you agree that this book was a good opportunity to bring novel writing and songwriting together? Why?

  • Why do you think the book ends where it does? Where would you have it end, if you could? Why?

Book details

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