Monday, November 8, 2010

Review: Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It
Susan Beth Pfeffer
Young Adult/
Post Apocalyptic
Last Survivors/Book 1
Harcourt/October 2006

From the publisher's website ~

When Miranda first hears the warnings that a meteor is headed on a collision path with the moon, they just sound like an excuse for extra homework assignments. But her disbelief turns to fear in a split second as the entire world witnesses a lunar impact that knocks the moon closer in orbit, catastrophically altering the earth’s climate.

Everything else in Miranda’s life fades away as supermarkets run out of food, gas goes up to more than ten dollars a gallon, and school is closed indefinitely. But what Miranda and her family don’t realize is that the worst is yet to come.

Told in Miranda’s diary entries, this is a heart-pounding account of her struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all–hope–in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar time.

This is one of those trilogies that I kept hearing about but put off reading for one reason or another. I did finally get what I thought was the first book for my teen. It turns out it was the second book, oops! I then got the first and third books for her. She liked all three and yet I still didn't read them. Finally, I was in the right mood or something and got them once again from the library. The odd part is that I can be a bit fanatical when it comes to reading series, trilogies, etc in order. But for some reason the second book in the series, which has a different narrator and takes place in NYC, didn't appeal to me. I wanted to find out what happened to Miranda, the narrator of the first book. So I skipped book two and went on to book three. Which probably wasn't the best thing to do but not the worst and turned out okay.

This is a dystopian/post apocalyptic type of story but there isn't the massive fighting of alien invaders or zombies or creatures of the night. This world comes about from a natural disaster and takes place in suburbia. How plausible is the science of the story? I don't know. I didn't really focus on the plausibility of the moon pushed closer to Earth by a meteor. Do I think it could happen? Sure, except somehow I think aliens would have to be involved. :)

The story is told in Miranda's POV so if you don't like her voice, well, I think it would be hard to like the book. Fortunately I did like her voice. She comes across as a real teen with real teen problems. She doesn't care about the meteor, she's more concerned with getting her drivers license or seeing her dad. Her parents are divorced and her father moved away and remarried. So Miranda doesn't get to see him as much as she would like. Typical kid stuff, nothing she can't handle. Then the meteor hits and her world is turned upside down.

It was fascinating to see how people reacted. There was the standard panic and disbelief. The run on the grocery store, people grabbing what they could. You see those survival instincts come out in force in Miranda's mom. She really kept her cool and had the intelligence to do something other than panic. If it wasn't for Miranda's mom taking the situation as serious as she did, the family wouldn't have survived as long as they did.

I have a very limited amount of experience in disaster type situations. I grew up in Illinois, blizzards and tornadoes were sometimes a problems but my parents took care of us kids. As an adult, I lived in Southern California for 15 years and experienced some earthquakes. I did keep an earthquake kit but the possibility for disaster wasn't in my thoughts every day. Those were minor situations compared to what Miranda and her family had to go through. So it's not easy to relate to her situation. I do think the writing lends itself to pulling the reader in and experiencing what Miranda is going through. You're reading her journal and feeling like you're there with her. Even though you know the tragedy can't touch you, you still can't help but wonder what if...

Life As We Knew It isn't a happy book. There are moments of happiness, of joy. But it's more a book that makes you think. It makes you wonder what would you do in Miranda's situation? Or in her mother's situation with kids to take care of? The story not only shows us how their life style continues to deteriorate but how they continue to grab onto that one little bit of hope. One thing that surprised me was what some of the characters thought were important. Whether it was a case of misinformation or not wanting to acknowledge the new reality, it was a study in human dynamics and left me wondering who could be that naive to think things would get back to normal. Would I be that naive? No. I think I'm too much a pessimist. I wonder how others would react. Maybe not in the way they think they would.

The story follows the days, weeks and months after the meteor hit and takes place in Miranda's small suburban Pennsylvania town. As things progressively worsen, we see how people can crack under the pressure of living day to day, not knowing what might happen next. They receive very little information from the outside world and what they do receive isn't encouraging. They don't know what has happened to many of their family and friends but much of the news is not good. In our world of instant access or near instant access to everything and everyone, suddenly finding yourself cut off from the outside world. It's another shock that Miranda and her family must deal with.

I wasn't sure if I would like Life As We Knew It or if I would find it too much of a downer. Yes, it was depressing but it was also fascinating to see how one decision leads to another and has the potential for a fatal outcome. It was very tense at times and hard to put down. There are many instances when what should be a simple choice could prove to be catastrophic. There is hope, that underlying feeling that things just have to get better. The reader comes to care about this family and wants them to survive the harsh environment they find themselves in.

Rating: A-


  1. Sounds like a good book, but not for me. I want happy LOL... a book that make me think of disasters, that makes me scared of the what if... is not a book for me.

    I'm glad though you enjoyed it Leslie :) and as always, very good review.

  2. This was such an excellent book. Incredibly moving!

  3. nath ~ It's certainly different, with a few happy moments. A book that stays with you.

    Marg ~ It certainly left an impression on me.

  4. Maria read this one a few years ago and really loved it. What is it with teens liking all that doom and gloom and impeding end of the world stuff? She read the second one and while she liked it, she said it felt like the same exact story just told from a guy's perspective. *shrug* I should read them... including the third one that came out more recently, right?

  5. Christine ~ The 2nd was my least favorite. It's told in Alex's perspective & takes place in NYC. It had a different feel to it. Maybe because he was a guy? *shrugs*

    The 3rd book, This World We Live In, catches up with Miranda from 1st book. It was good but I'd say 1st was my favorite.