Friday, 12 June 2015

Review & Author Interview: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Before Ardor, 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 the asteroid 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.


The reading slump I mentioned in my previous review of All The Bright Places is what also what lead me to this book. And I'll tell you what, I loved it just as much! 

This book, to me, is brilliantly written - the voices are authentic and witty, the sense of humour dry and often macabre. Readers and reviewers bang on about voice and how important it is to get it right, and for me, Tommy nails. I definitely hear my own sarcastic teenage-ness in the characters. I particularly like Eliza, Andy and Anita, all of whom I can find a little of myself in. Andy's character reminds me of the boys I hung out with in high school and I recognised myself in the girls, Eliza - the badass I wanted to be in high school and Anita - the good girl I actually was. 

What really stands out in We All Looked Up are the unique turn of phrases that jump off the pages and makes you laugh and ponder.  

The concept is well handled and the plot is nicely paced but not overly crammed. For me, it was pretty close to perfect. I felt there were some issues with plausibility i.e. the lack of anarchy towards the end of society's breakdown that pulled me out a little bit, but other than that - wonderful. 

So from me it's:  

Like I said, pretty near damn perfect. 

Added Bonus! I was lucky enough to interview the author, Tommy Wallach! Interesting note about Tommy - he is also a musician and has created an accompanying album to We All Looked Up that definitely needs to be your reading soundtrack. More on that below: 

What inspired the story of We All Looked Up? 

The story was primarily inspired by a film called "Melancholia," which also involves an asteroid coming at the Earth. "Melancholia," however, is very much for adults (it was directed by Lars von Trier), and uses the asteroid as a metaphor. It was a couple months after seeing the film that it occurred to me that the asteroid storyline hadn't been explored for the YA audience, at least not in a way that had broken out into the greater consciousness. I thought it made for a great match, given how "end-of-the-world" life already seems when you're in high school. 

The idea of a karass seems central to this story. What drew you to this and have you ever experienced one yourself? 

Karass - A network or group of people who, unknown to themselves, are somehow affiliated or linked, specifically to fulfill the will of God.

My mom has been using that word ever since I was a kid, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I actually read "Cat's Cradle." The concept really resonated with me, but to be honest, I'm not sure it's something that really happens in real life. I believe in deep spiritual connections with individual people, but I think it's rare for there to be a group that is connected in such a way. Still, it's a beautiful thought, isn't it? 

There is a full companion album to this book. What came first - the story or the music? 

A combination. Some of the songs were written before the book was started, but then I included them in the plot of the book (as songs written by two of the protagonists who begin playing music together over the course of the novel). Some of the songs were written after the book was completed, specifically to go on the accompanying album. And a few were just songs I had that I really liked and wanted to include on the album, even though they don't directly connect. 

Can you tell us any more about your writing music/book process? 

For writing fiction, I tend to work 6-7 days a week, writing about 1,000 words a day. I always work in coffee shops, for some strange reason. Music is very different for me. I can only write music when I'm inspired, which is annoying, because sometimes I'm just not inspired. I haven't written a new song for many months right now (maybe because everything is going so well in my life!). 

If you only had two months to live, what would you do? Move away with family like Cartier or party on like Eliza, Andy and Anita? 

In reality, I'd probably go away with my family. Boring, right? But if you really had very little time, you'd want to spend it with the people you love the most, and probably away from all the madness that would be going down in big cities. 

Your authors notes say you rewrote the ending twice. Care to share the original endings with us?

Ha! Well, it's not quite as simple as that. I rewrote the entire second half twice, not just the ending, so the shifts were pretty enormous. Going into the details would take all day. I will admit that the original draft of the book had all the characters being locked-in at school, ostensibly to keep them off the streets. Then, when the book was picked up by an agent, he told me (very nicely) that I was an idiot, because no parents would ever allow their children to be locked up at school with the end of the world coming! Man, that still embarrasses me. 

There are so many fantastic lines from your book (the chips climbing out of primordial ooze being my personal favourite). Do you have a favourite line? 

"It turned out they'd been right here all along, standing in the darkness, appealing to the stars for some sign of what was to come, and never getting anything back but the shifting constellations of a swiftly spinning, precariously tilted planet." I'm really proud of that one. 

Do you have a favourite character? 

I think I felt closest to Eliza, and I've been really happy that so many of my young female readers have also connected to her. 

 For lovers of We All Looked Up, could you suggest any other YA authors your readers might like? Or ones you particularly like yourself? 

I still have a soft spot for "Ender's Game," though the author isn't the greatest guy in the world, but I think my favorite YA remains Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy.Thanks For The Trouble is due out May next year in the US. Can you tell us anything about it? I can! It's about a boy named Parker Santé who is hanging out in a hotel lobby, looking for something to steal, when he meets a girl named Zelda Toth. Zelda tells Parker that she's waiting for her phone to ring, at which point, she'll jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Also, she claims to have been born in 1770. The book takes place over one weekend, as Parker tries to figure out the truth about Zelda's past. 

Hope you enjoyed this review and interview! Next on my review pile is This is Not A Love Story by an author I love, Keren David. 

Bookish love,


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