We All Looked Up
Tommy Wallach
Published March 26th 2015 by Simon & Schuster Children’s
YA > Contemporary | SciFi
Purchase links:
Amazon | BN | TBD


‘This generation’s The Stand . . . at once troubling, uplifting, scary and heart-wrenching’ Andrew Smith, author of Grasshopper Jungle
Before, 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.
 [tour schedule]


 Welcome to my stop for the We All Looked Up PH tour! Check out the excerpt I have for you all and tell me what you think!! Thanks to PinoyBookTours 🙂



Peter idly patted the stuffed bunny, trying to remember exactly what had happened. They’d been learning about the phrase “Pyrrhic victory,” which came from Roman times and meant that you’d won something, like a battle, but in order to win, you had to lose so much that you really hadn’t won at all. Mr. McArthur asked the class if anyone could come up with some examples from real life. Nobody else was going for it, so Peter raised his hand and said that if you won a basketball game or a football game or something, but your best player got injured, that would be an example. Mr. McArthur nodded, but then he stared hard at Peter with the combined intensity of his earnest eyes and that inquisitorial forehead and said, “What about if you were a big sports star, and you made loads of money, and you bought big houses and you drove fast cars, but when your time in the limelight was over, you ended up unhappy because you didn’t know what the point of your life had been? Would that be a Pyrrhic victory?”

He’d let the question hang out there, like some big old rainbow of a three-pointer. And then Andy Rowen said, “I’d take it anyway,” and the whole class laughed and they moved on to Caesar.

But Peter couldn’t help thinking that Mr. McArthur was probably right: It would be a Pyrrhic victory. Because when the golden days were over, and you were lying on your deathbed, watching the instant replay of your life, wouldn’t it be pretty depressing to think you’d wasted your best years playing a game?

That was the thought that had plagued Peter for the last six hours, though he didn’t quite know how to put it into words. Thankfully, Mr. McArthur finally came to his rescue.

“Peter, I’m sorry if it seemed like I was criticizing you today. I like you. And I’ve seen a lot of popular kids go through this school. The ones at the top of the pile, I mean. Most of them let it go to their heads, but I don’t think you do.”

Flattery embarrassed Peter; he looked over toward the wall, where an empty Advent calendar still hung, open windows counting down the days until Christmas. He’d expected a lecture from Mr. -McArthur, not a recitation of his good qualities. “I guess.”

“Most kids wouldn’t have given a second thought to what I said. So why do you think it’s made such an impression on you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Okay. Then let me ask you this—what is it that makes a book really good?”

“I don’t really read that much. Outside of homework, I mean.”

“Then I’ll tell you. 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. You’re part of this cosmic community of people who’ve thought about this thing, whatever it happens to be. I think that’s what happened to you today. This fear, of squandering your future, was already on your mind. I just underlined it for you.”

Something inside Peter thrummed along with this explanation. “Maybe.”

“It’s a good thing, Peter, to worry about having a meaningful life. Are you at all religious?”

“I guess so. I mean, I believe in God and stuff.”

“That’s some of it, then. Religion is all about making meaning for yourself. And you’ll have to excuse me if this is too personal, but have you ever lost someone? Someone close to you, I mean.”

“Yeah,” Peter said, a little awed by Mr. McArthur’s intuition. “My older brother, a couple years ago. Why?”

“My father died when I was very young. It forced me to confront things that many of my peers had the luxury of ignoring. The big questions. Does that sound familiar?”

“I’m not sure.”

Mr. McArthur left some space in the conversation, waiting to see if Peter would say more, then shrugged his caterpillar eyebrows. “My point, Peter, is that you’re one of those people who’ve been blessed not only with talent, but with self-awareness. And that means you get to choose what you want to do with your life, instead of life choosing for you. But having that power, the power to choose, can be a double-¬edged sword. Because you can choose wrong.”

“How do you know if you’re choosing wrong?”

“You tell me. Do you think it’s better to fail at something worthwhile, or to succeed at something meaningless?”

Peter answered before he realized what he was saying. “To fail at something worthwhile.” The implications of his answer hit him like an elbow to the sternum.

Mr. McArthur laughed. “You look positively tragic!”

“Well, you’re saying I should stop doing the only thing I’ve ever been great at.”

“No. I’m not saying stop. I’m saying evaluate. I’m saying choose. You can ignore everything I said today if you want.”

“Can I?”

“I suppose that depends on what kind of man you want to be.” Mr. McArthur stood up and put out a hand. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Come talk to me anytime.”




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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.