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