Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer


Life As We Knew It has been an overnight sensation on the blogs lately. It is the first book in a Young Adult trilogy about what could perhaps be the end of the world. Seems like heavy stuff, and it is. But after reading the reviews from Lisa (Books on the Brain), Carrie (Books and Movies), Amy (My Friend Amy) and Nymeth (Things Mean Alot), YA connoisseurs all, could there be no doubt that I was missing out if I did not read it? Yet another impulsive library request...

In fact, my daughter got her hands on it before I did. She was visibly shaken by the book but at the same time couldn't put it down. I happened to be finishing up "Brooklyn" at the time, and she asked me at least once a day whether I'd started this book yet. She was anxious to talk about it.

And for good reasons. This was an incredible, unforgettable book. The setting is in the current day, and our narrator is a 16-year-old girl named Miranda, who is keeping a diary. Her parents are divorced but amiable. Her father has remarried and is expecting a new baby. Her older brother Matt goes to college, and her younger brother Jon is in middle school, and lives with Miranda, their mother and the family cat. Typical family these days.

Nobody thinks twice when the news reports that an asteroid is going to collide with the moon. In fact, it is sort of a media event, like an eclipse. But upon impact, everyone understands, with a sickening fear, that the situation has been underestimated. The moon is pushed closer to the earth, disrupting the gravitational balance. Tsunamis are the first catastrophic result, wiping out everyone living anywhere near the coast (Florida and California are always getting the short end of the stick!). Then there are the earthquakes, volcanoes in unlikely locations, the heavy ash, the deadly communicable diseases...

Because of Miranda's mother's survival instincts, quick reflexes and desire to protect her family, they secure plenty of food, water, gasoline and warm clothing. But how long will the supplies last? When will things be back to normal, or will they ever be normal again? Miranda documents their daily struggles, which include food rationing, communicating with long-distance loved ones, gun-wielding bandits, death, and finding one's own personal space in an ever-shrinking world. Despite conflict, the family works out their problems and stays strong for each other. They begin to take pleasure in the smallest of blessings...ice-skating at a nearby pond, a game of chess, an old forgotten box of baseball cards. In what is an incredibly dark story, there are shards of hope:

"I never knew I could love as deeply as I do. I never knew I could be so willing to sacrifice things for other people. I never knew how wonderful a taste of pineapple juice could be, or the warmth of a woodstove, or the sound of Horton (the cat) purring, or the feel of clean clothes against freshly scrubbed skin. It wouldn't be New Year's without a resolution. I've resolved to take a moment every day for the rest of my life to appreciate what I have."

Miranda is a delightful protagonist. She is like any other teenage girl in how she longs for a boyfriend, needs her personal space, and is defiant of her mother (they have a few fights that are doozies). But she digs deep and finds strength within herself that she never knew she had. She loves her family and would make any sacrifice to help them. You can help but love her.

The overall premise is terrifying. It does not appear there is so much science behind Pfeffer's books as there is intuitive consequences (based on her blog here) but it is believable enough to keep you up at night. With the rains, the unusual cold temperatures, and earthquakes, you'd think it was starting now!

As I speak, I have "The Dead and the Gone", the second book of the trilogy, is on order from the library. It is my understanding that the book centers on another teen in New York City during the same time period. My daughter and I wait anxiously!

My daughter's rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars





24 comments:

Lenore said...

Glad you liked it! I thought it was a bit tame for apocalyptic lit, but it was a good story.

Beth F said...

I just jumped to the bottom to get your rating -- I have this near the top of the TBR --I'll be back to read your review later.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I've been dying to read this one too! And as you may have noticed, when I see one like that on your blog, I am compelled to go get it also (in keeping with my tendency to follow you around)!

caite said...

Love the cover..

and heading off to see if my library has a copy yet. how will I ever get to my TBR pile if people keep recommending books like this?

Books like this always make me want to buy more ammo for my .38 and spend more time practicing at the range. And buy lots and lots of bottled water.
I already have the warm clothes.

Craftymoose Crafts said...

Yay! Another one to add to my book list!

Nymeth said...

So glad you liked it! As much as I did too, I haven't been able to bring myself to read the sequel yet because I'm kind of scared of going through that same emotional tumult again, you know? This book affected me like few do.

farmlanebooks said...

It sounds as though I should add this to the list. It is great that your daughter enjoyed it too! I'll see if my library has a copy.

Carrie K. said...

It really was un-put-down-able! Glad you liked it, too.

C.B. James said...

I keep mixing this up with Meg Rostoff's book which has a very similar title that I can't think of right now. But based on your rating and on your daughter's rating, this sounds like one I should look into for book clubs.

April said...

I read this for the 24-hour ReadAThon and it definitely kept me up the whole time.

I agree with you on this being such an emotional read. It was amazing. I haven't gotten to the sequel yet, but will have to check it out sooner or later.

Ti said...

There's something very compelling about a family trying to survive. The different dynamics, their viewpoints on how to do it, etc. I felt that the author did a good job of juggling all of the characters and what was going on with each of them.

I can't wait to read the next book. I tried to buy it this weekend but they were out.

bermudaonion said...

I love that your daughter was anxious to talk about the book with you! I really think Carl would like this one.

Dar said...

I've heard nothing but good things about this series. I'd really like to read it one of these days. Glad you both enjoyed the book!

Catherine Ensley said...

I found this book terrifying, indeed. I didn't read book 2, however I plan to read book 3 when it's released, which is soon. Book 3 returns to the original story.

heidenkind said...

It's nice that these books are coming out to prepare us for 2012.

Melody said...

I've read a lot of great reviews about this series, so they're definitely onto my wishlist!!

Danette Haworth said...

What a strong recommendation! It's so good when you and a family member enjoy the same kind of books. My husband and I share the same affinity for mystery/suspense, and it's wonderful to see what the other person thought about this or that part of the book.

Literary Feline said...

I am glad you enjoyed this one, Sandy. It sounds like an interesting series--and one you can appreciate with your daughter which is always nice. :-) Thanks for your great review.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I have seen this all around town but your review just put me over the edge. Any time your daughter wants you to hurry up and finish a book, it must be a good read. I should know because I have certainly done that enough to my own mom.

Jenners said...

I'm so glad you were there to read and discuss this with your daughter!!! I feel bad that she was so scared by it!

Anna said...

I've been wanting to read this one for awhile. I'm sure The Girl will want to read it at some point.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Kathleen said...

This sounds like one that I can read quickly but will enjoy!

Tampa BookWorm said...

adding to my TBR list. also.. love the pic of the white cat.. looks just like one of mine!!

Zibilee said...

Wow, what a review! You have totally convinced me to get this book. I have ordered a sample to my Kindle and await the chance to read it! My daughter will probably love this one as well. I also loved the quote you provided. It reminded me a bit of Into the Wilderness.