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 4 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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 byBreannaRaeLynn June 11, 2019

Intense but outstanding

I throughly enjoyed this book and it definitely kept me on my toes. While I believe this is an excellent book if you enjoy apocalyptic, life or death scenarios,... Continue reading
Adult Written byslippynauts.boo... August 19, 2018

Overall, Good Book

I read this book and was planning to use it to complete a summer assignment of mine. That was before I read it. While reading, I noticed how much sex , drug us... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old May 26, 2020
The book is amazing I didn’t want to put the book down
Teen, 14 years old Written byunfortunxteoblivion September 12, 2018

Amazing but a bit too explicit

A fun, interesting, and angsty read for mature teens

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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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