We All Looked Up, by Tommy Wallach, fell into the typical tropes of high school:
- Simple-minded star athlete with beautiful, popular but shallow girlfriend
- Slacker dude who hangs out with a crazy druggie/dealer friend
- Athlete's sister, girlfriend of the druggie
- Artsy girl labeled as a slut
- Type A girl with super-strict parents (who is the only African American character in this otherwise white world)
I followed the various collisions of these teens as they scrambled to make sense (or nonsense) of their lives, each in their own alternating chapters, and it works for the most part--the tropes evolve. I thought the story sagged a bit two-thirds of the way through, and a couple of the teens did not seem to expand much from their original conceptions, while the adults were barely present, mostly cardboard cutouts too easy to knock down. The ending, however, was good--not too American, which was a surprise.
Thanks For The Trouble, a wonderful bookend to the question he asks in this book. It's a fine meditation on why life is worth living, and when it can stop being worth living. The title comes from a Leonard Cohen song, "Famous Blue Raincoat," and the idea that someone took the trouble to end someone else's pain, a stranger's no less, is inspiring.