by Abigail Fellin
“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 less alone in this world.”
When I first picked this book up at Barnes & Noble, I was intrigued by the image of kids chilling in a field, staring at the sky on the cover. Who are they? What is their story? And why are they all staring at the sky? Basically, I judged this book by the cover and decided I liked it instantly, giving the story high expectations to live up to.
Spoiler alert: It did.
We All Looked Up follows the story of four high school seniors as they realize it is not graduation they need to worry about, but the end of the world. An asteroid, affectionately called Ardor, is set to hit Earth in 8 weeks, ending life as they know it. This gives them two months to really live.
While this sounds like it could just be another apocalyptic story filled with high school drama and teen angst, it is so much more than that. Wallach takes stereotypes—the jock, the slut, the slacker, and the nerd—and turns them into three dimensional characters with insecurities, desires, and fears. The characters quickly change from stock characters to relatable people that readers can easily find a bit of themselves in. While multiple point of view stories can become a volley of going back and forth between different stories, Wallach does an excellent job of weaving the change of POVs together in way that makes the story seem continuous without giving all the characters the same monotonous tone.
This story is not without its shortcomings. Although Wallach was able to create multidimensional characters, he does fall into the trope of having a lopsided love triangle—unfortunately, an overused device in books. Despite this flaw (that sadly spans the length of the book), this novel is still a great read that leads readers to ponder philosophical questions on existentialism.
We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach could have crashed and burned like the Ardor is set to crash into the Earth, however it takes on big questions in a non-cheesy, cliché way that intrigues readers from the first page.
by Emily Wedell
Samantha Frehse is a BVU graduate who currently teaches at Newell-Fonda High School. Hot Dish Magazine interviewed Samantha after a presentation Hot Dish editors gave to the Newell-Fonda students who visited BV. The Newell-Fonda students were working on their own literary magazine project, and Hot Dish Magazine was excited to learn about the high school project.
As a BVU alum, how has BVU prepared you for your current work?
There are many things that I could say that BVU has done to prepare me for the work I do as an English teacher. However, the opportunity that helped prepare me the most for the WE Term class, Mustang Mag, was working on the FACES magazine with Annamaria Elsden and my friend Krista Kent. Working on the magazine back in 2011, I was shown a glimpse of the planning, organization, and work required to create a magazine.
Could you tell me a little bit about your students’ new literary project?
During this past year, Beth Olsen and I decided that for our 2018 WE Term Project, we wanted to try something a little different than we had done in the past. Inspired by magazines we enjoy, and our love of learning we thought creating a magazine project would be fun. By allowing the students freedom of choice, they would be able to learn more about the topics they enjoyed. In our group this year we ended up having a variety of magazines. We had magazines about pets, fishing, survival, photography, culture, 4-H Fairs, sports, art, and cooking.
The children started out the process by brainstorming ideas that they would like to look into a little bit more. Some students came together and formed groups based on interest, others decided to focus on a topic that they alone found interesting. Mrs. Olsen and I worked hard to create lessons that would help them with their magazines. We tried to front-load our class with information to help our students sort out their magazine. We also went to some amateur and professionals for a little bit of help in working with our magazines. We got a chance to learn more about photography from Michael Dewey and Danielle Peterson. We got a chance to learn more about creating a magazine and a logo for that magazine from Hot Dish Magazine at BVU. We also got a chance to learn a little bit more about the printing process with the Prairie Lakes AEA Printing department and their graphic designer. Overall, together with our students, we learned that with a lot of work and collaboration, there could be some successful magazines created in even a short time like our two-week class.
What is the most challenging (and/or most rewarding) part of pioneering this project?
One of the most challenging parts of creating this project was not knowing where the kids would go with it. It is hard to plan and prepare for something when you are not sure what type of students will be in the class or where their interests will lie. However, when all was said and done, it also became a really interesting piece of our class. We got to learn more about what the students are truly passionate about. It was fun to see some of the students really enjoying themselves as they read articles to help them become more informed on their topics.
Is there anything particular from the Midwest region that inspired this project or contributed to its creation?
Some of the magazines themselves were inspired by the Midwest region because of some of the unique qualities found here.
Do you have a favorite book or author?
My current favorite author is probably David Baldacci. I love the action and adventure that he brings to his novels.
Since we are a Midwest, "Hot Dish" publisher), What is one "hot dish" type of recipe you typically make (and please include recipe and instructions)?
1 lb ground beef
1 pound mostaccioli pasta, cooked and drained
1 jar Barilla Pasta Sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large skillet, season the ground beef with salt and pepper. Then at a medium temperature, brown the ground beef until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the beef, cooked pasta, and pasta sauce until well combined.
Layer half of the pasta into the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish and top with half of the mozzarella cheese. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture into the dish to form a second layer. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.