Review: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

imagesLife as We Knew It is written as the journal of high school junior Miranda.  Life in her small Pennsylvania town isn’t perfect- her best friends are bugging her and she’s not sure she even likes them much anymore.  One has become a born again Christian and the other one is really into boys.  Her dad’s new wife is pregnant and giddy and that’s bugging her too.  She wants to start ice skating lessons again but her mom wants her to continue on the swim team.  To top it all off, there’s this “moon thing”.  At first it barely gets a mention in her journal, but then her teachers start piling on more homework about the moon.  Annoying!

An asteroid is scheduled to hit the moon on Wednesday, May 18th, around 9:30pm.  The teachers are all talking about the moon- even her French teacher- and giving out assignments about it- three different essays are due on Friday.  Why are they making such a fuss? 

When the big night arrives, Miranda’s mom makes a plate of cookies and the family gathers around CNN to see what’s going on.  Just before the lunar event, they take lawn chairs and the cookies out to their front yard, along with binoculars and a telescope.   Neighbors are barbequeing and it’s a party atmosphere up and down the street.  Miranda’s brother, manning the binoculars, shouts that the asteroid is coming.  A hush falls over the neighborhood as everyone looks skyward and sees it streaking across the sky, smaller than the moon but bigger than anything else they’d ever seen in the sky.  There are cheers when it makes impact, but then the cheers stop and there are screams of “Oh my God!”  

From Miranda’s journal:

 “But the moon wasn’t a half moon anymore.  It was tilted and wrong and a three quarter moon and it got larger, way larger, large like a moon rising on the horizon, only it wasn’t rising.  It was smack in the middle of the sky, way too big, way too visible.  You could see details on the craters even without the binoculars that before I’d seen with Matt’s telescope.” 

The moon, pushed off its axis and out of its orbit, wreaks havoc on the earth’s environment.  Tsunamis destroy the eastern seaboard, killing millions.  Terrifying thunderstorms knock out power sporadically.  It’s hard to get news of what’s going on.  Miranda goes to school the next day but it’s anything but typical.  Her mom comes to get her and they race to the grocery store with hundreds of dollars in cash, buying everything in sight that they might possibly need in the foreseeable future, taking purchases to the car then returning for more.  The panic is palpable. 

As the world changes, Miranda and her family learn to survive with few resources, no heat or electricity, and a dwindling food supply.  There are earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in other areas of the country and around the world, with ash traveling for miles and blocking the sun, causing temperatures to plummet and creating an Arctic winter.  We hear about many of these things as information from Miranda’s mom after she listens to the radio, etc., making it a lot less terrifying to read then it would be if Miranda were seeing things firsthand.  

Miranda is forced to grow up quickly.  She and her family are strong in the face of enormous challenges.  They are determined to survive in a world that has become unrecognizable.  They do what needs to be done to take care of themselves and each other.  Miranda amazes herself at what she is able and willing to do for the people she loves. 

Life As We Knew It reminded me of The Road in a number of ways.  There is a major, life changing, worldwide event (in The Road, we never learn what that is- in this book, we do).  The world is gray and covered in ash.  But unlike The Road,  Life As We Knew It offers hope- the world will never be the same, but perhaps they can learn to live in it.  It allows us to really know the people involved (in The Road, the main characters are referred to as ‘the man’ and ‘the boy’).  We really feel their emotions.  It was so realistic, which made it all the more frightening.  The moon event, while highly unlikely, is something we can all imagine happening. 

I was totally engrossed in this book.  Among many other things, it made me think about how woefully unprepared we are for any sort of major emergency.  It made me think about our resources and the food we eat (and waste).   It caused me to wonder about the nature of our environment, the delicate balance we take for granted every single day.  How one thing, one event, can change our lives permanently.   And how through love and determination we can survive just about anything. 

This is an amazing YA book that I would recommend for ages 13 and up.  Kids any younger than that might be frightened by it. 

I LOVED Life As We Knew It and HIGHLY recommend it!!  It would be great for book clubs, especially mother/daughter book clubs (if the kids are old enough).  Please let me know if you read it and I will link your review here.  


27 Responses

  1. I’m going to be on the look out for this one. Totally engrossed equals great in my book. Thanks for the review.

  2. okay, okay…i put it on hold at the library! thanks for the head’s up. 🙂

  3. Wow, that sounds really great. I don’t currently know anyone in the YA age group to recommend the book to, but I’ve been known to read a YA book or two so I might check it out.

  4. I’ve heard so many things about this book but I can’t seem to find it anywhere!

  5. I have heard so many awesome things about this book but keep thinking that I didn’t want to read it. Your review has pushed me now. To the TBR list it goes.

  6. It sounds like such a fantastic book. I keep hearing good things about it; have to add it to my TBR!

  7. I gave this book to my sister for Christmas!! It was on her wishlist and she was VERY excited to get it! Glad to hear you liked it…it looked very interesting!!

  8. oops..but website address in wrong!

  9. Glad to hear this was such a hit with you. I’ve got it on my list for post-apocalyptic reads. I’m working on another endcap for work and this will fit nicely. I’m ready to be engrossed in a lot of books this month. Currently, I can’t put down Tana French’s In The Woods. Great mystery!

  10. Wow! This sure does sound like quite an intense book, especially for the YA section! It’ll be nice to delve in to a YA book thats about more than just boys and makeup for a change (although, don’t get me wrong, I do love those books with a completely different portion of my heart!). You mentioned Miranda’s mom quite a bit, but not her dad – does her dad play much of a role?

  11. Jeane, it really is good!

    Allison, how old is your sister? I’d love to know what she thought of it when she’s done.

    Les, oooo, I’ve heard great things out In the Woods! I’ll look for your review.

    Chelsea, there is a very small ‘boy’ element- she has a little crush on a boy and hopes he asks her to prom, but that is before the world changes! Miranda’s dad is in the book, but her parents are divorced, he is remarried with a younger pregnant wife, and they live in a different city a few hours away. He does play a role in their survival, though, and one of the hardest parts of the ordeal for Miranda is not hearing from her dad for many months.

  12. I just picked this up at the library but didn’t dare open it yet! I noticed in the new teen section a new book by this author, it looks like a sequel of sorts to this – about a boy in a different part of the country. You might be interested in this!

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  15. this book is really good it makes you think about the possibilities that could happen if somethin like that did occure i think its good for all age groups there is somethin everyone will love

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  18. I just finished reading this book for my book report @ school. it. was. reeeally. good!!! I liked it a lot and I’m already looking for the book “The Dead and The Gone” FOR THE RECORD. IT IS NOTTT! a sequel. it’s another book by the same author in a boy’s perspective in NYC—so obviously it’s going to be different from this book. i’m already sure “The Dead and The Gone” is going to be good. no questions asked. Look around for it people!!!

  19. —just for the record— i was looking through some other comments and just wanted to say that Yes, the book is really good and makes you think, but is NOT a book for everyone. First off, I would’nt exactly reccomend this book to ANYONE under 12–and even that’s a stretch. If you HAVE read it you would know that the book mentions some discussions about and references to uhm… how to phrase this… sex *COUGH COUGH* I’m only 13 here… (ha-ha-ha)

  20. I have read this book. It is really good. A great mix of personal relationships and horror. Well, it’s not that scary. Just freaky.

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  22. i absolutely LOVED this book. i was reading it for a book report i was doing at school. it was so good that i actually finished it in TWO (2) DAYS! i really loved how real it actually felt. but it was also heartbreaking at times. and im not afraid to admit that i did shed a tear or two. other then that i would TOTALLY recommend this to anybody. no matter what kind of genere/subject of book you read. 🙂

  23. I have read both books, I had to read The Road for class this year and i just read Life As We Knew It for summer reading homework and i couldnt believe how much the books sounded alike they are both really good books. Both books made me want to cry, i think i actually had some tears run down my face. great books. i cant wait to write a paper on Life As We Knew It and say how it connects with The Road and what was the differences.

  24. While the story line is a good one and she is a good author she did filter her strong personal taste on politics and religion in this book which I’m all for if it’s about embracing and respecting others and their differences not mocking others or disrespecting them. Parents definitely need to be the judge of what their kids read and not just go off reviews. Wouldn’t let my pre teen read this maybe when she is old enough to be wise to the ways of the world.

  25. I read this book! IT is an amazing novel… I LOVEDDDD IT (L)(L) IT was really gud That i finished it in like 1 and a half day :O….. I would reccomend this to anyone over the age of 13 caz there are parts that are disturbing. 🙂 (L) :):P

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