Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: Life As We Knew It

Susan Beth Pfeffer
Harcourt Children's Books
When a meteor crashes into the moon and knocks it off course, a bit closer to earth, things start going haywire. Overnight the climate changes so dramatically that Miranda and her family are stockpiling food and blankets, preparing for the hard times ahead. On both coasts there's flooding and there are lengthy lists of the dead, but Miranda and her family are safe - at least at first. Told through Miranda's diary entries, this is the story of the end of the world as we know it. It's a startlingly simple concept, with scary realistic results as Miranda's mother becomes obsessed with having enough food and the rule quickly becomes: family - and only family - first.

I can't believe I waited so long to read this one. Though Miranda's personality is a bit of a mystery, this is still a great book. Unlike most of what I read, it's very much plot-driven and it doesn't matter so much who Miranda and her family are as much as how they get through. The reactions to the earth's sudden emergency are realistic and, thank goodness, smart. Miranda's mother immediately fills up the car with gas, pulls her children out of school, and concentrates on getting as much food and other necessities as possible. Better safe than sorry.

At first, Miranda thinks her mother's crazy; there's no way they'll need this much food, or long underwear, or so much medicine. But her disbelief quickly changes as instead of getting better, the planet gets worse. Soon she's cut off from all of her friends, everyone she used to know is a stranger while her world is narrowed to include only her mother, two brothers, and the elderly neighbor they consider part of their family. Everyone is deciding what matters most and how to best survive, and sometimes the choices of others put Miranda at odds with them. There's a religious subplot that I can only explain as strange, but with one exception I was surprised by the realistic actions of these characters. This is very much a story of family and survival in the hardest of times, and there's little to talk about because everything was done so well. It's definitely a disturbing and scary little book, but not enough to stop me from recommending it. The characters are pushed to their limits and while it's unsettling, there's a certain comfort in the way they handle things and the reflection of ourselves in them. There's a theme of the importance and strength of family running through this book that gives it heart.


  1. Oh man. MAN. I really tried with this one, Jordyn, I did. I partially read this for a Forever Young Adult book club back in the day and I could NOT get over Miranda's whining and quit halfway.

  2. thatcovergirl
    Well, that happens. There are definitely books many others have loved that I've scratched my head over. But I can understand where you're coming from with Miranda's personality, even though I didn't perceive it the same way; she was a bit whiney in the beginning but I didn't think it was bad at all.