Friday, March 20, 2015

FFBC: Welcome to the club, We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

We All Looked Up
by Tommy Wallach
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 31st 2015
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Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.

They always say that high school is the best time of your life.

Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.

Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.

Well, I’m going to interpret all of these questions as “one of your favorites,” because it’s impossible to pick a single favorite for any of these categories. “Middlemarch” is, at present, a real touchstone for me, just in terms of exemplifying all the many wonderful things you can do with a book in terms of plot, character and theme. I also love “Lolita” and “Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said,” to pick two very different but awesomely amazing other books.

Right now, Parks and Rec (even though I’m well aware Breaking Bad was a much better show). I always tell skeptics that the amazing thing about P&R was that it attempted to derive all of its comedic value from people being nicer to each other than real people are. Almost every other show on TV gets its humor from the exact opposite phenomenon. Miss you, P&R.

In a serious mode, White, directed by Krystof Kieslowski, because it’s about how ugly love can be. In a less serious mode, Labyrinth, because of David Bowie’s codpiece (and music) and Jim Henson’s puppets.

“Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is a structurally and emotionally perfect song. I’ve also spent the past year obsessed with “Another New World” by Josh Ritter.

The gingerbread they serve at “Dear Bushwick,” my favorite local brunch spot.

None I would actually move to, but I’d love to visit the Labyrinth from Labyrinth, Arrakis from Dune, and whatever the fantasy land is in The Neverending Story (though the last one is mostly because I still have a crush on the Childlike Empress).

“A gun rack. A gun rack. I don’t even own a gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack. What am I gonna do with a gun rack?” – Wayne’s World

This is not a thing I do.

Martin Amis. I think he would hate me.

Hello! I hope you have found these answers informative. Now go watch Labyrinth.

It’s the story of four teenagers faced with the apocalypse, arriving in the form of an asteroid called Ardor. Ardor has a 66.6% chance of actually colliding with Earth, and the collision is about six weeks off. WALU follows these four protagonists for what may very well be the last six weeks of their lives, as they come to terms with their mortality, fall in and out of love, and decide how to make the best of what time they have left.

Eliza is an artsy girl with a bit of a bad reputation, mostly because of a brief and ill-advised moment in a darkroom with another girl’s boyfriend. Peter is the boyfriend in question. He’s a star basketball player who has just begun to question why he’s dedicated his life to playing games when Ardor arrives. Andy is the prototypical slacker, still reeling from the failed suicide of his best friend, Bobo. Anita is a high-achieving scholarly type who secretly wants to be a musician, though her parents are totally against it.

Probably go home to Seattle to be near my mom (love you mom!). Hopefully I could convince some other loved ones to come along with me, but I bet there would be a mass exodus to various home towns if an asteroid did come along. New York City would be a ghost town! (Which would actually be kinda cool. Maybe I should stay after all…)

The film Melancholia from director Lars von Trier was the real starting point for WALU. Not the style of course—it’s a very dark movie for adults—but the asteroid concept as a means of exploring the inner lives of a small group of characters.

I’ve been surprised to find that my early readers’ favorite quote is one about the act of reading itself. It comes early on in the book, and is verbalized by Peter’s English teacher, Mr. McArthur: “The best books, they don’t talk about things you never thought about before. They talk about things you’d always thought about, but that you didn’t think anyone else had thought about. You read them, and suddenly you’re a little bit less alone in the world.”

There’s one scene in the book that was written entirely in dialogue. I had to fight for it (with my editor), but I’m so glad I did. It takes place after the first time certain characters spend the night together (no spoilers!). I really enjoyed the challenge of keeping the scene vibrant and active with nothing but the characters’ words to work with. Even making it clear who was speaking at certain times was a challenge.

Well, I wrote a whole and recorded a companion album of original songs to go with the book, so this is an easy one. Probably the album opener “A Natural Disaster,” or else a love song called “No Stars.” (The album will be available on Bandcamp and iTunes and such when the book comes out. You can hear the first song over at MTV:

Listen to my album! :)

My second book, “Thanks for the Trouble,” will be coming out in Spring 2016 from S&S. It’s about a boy who can’t speak and a girl who may or may not be two hundred and fifty years old. (No vampires, though. None. Just to be super clear: there are no vampires in my book.)

Thank you so much for everything, Tommy!

Thank you!

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Tommy Wallach is a Brooklyn-based writer and musician. His first novel, We All Looked Up, will be published by Simon and Schuster in April 2015. His work has appeared in many nice magazines, such as McSweeney's, Tin House, and Wired. He has released an EP with Decca Records, and will be independently putting out an LP in Spring 2014. He also makes music videos, including one that was exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum. You should buy him dinner.

Win (1) of (3) finished copies of We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach (US Only)


  1. Everything about this book sounds amazing! I seriously cannot wait! And Wallach's second book sounds amazing too! :)

  2. Honestly I was drawn to the cover, it is seriously so amazingly beautiful! But then I read the blurb and now I'm even more excited to read this book!