Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
For some odd reason, I’ve been reading a lot of end of the world as we know it types of books the past couple of weeks. And they’ve all managed to convince me that should the apocalypse happen, I am not in any way, shape or form prepared to survive for long.
Whether this is a good or a bad thing, I haven’t quite decided yet. But that said, that thought as well as the sheer bleakness of several of the novels have led to a lot of restless nights, wondering if its time to start hoarding food and stocking up on weapons and ammo.
Of the recent round of end of the world as we know it thriller I’ve read in the past few weeks, “Life As We Knew It” is the most haunting. Miranda is your average 16-year-old girl who looks forward to learning to drive, the prom and her first boyfriend. What’s she not pumped up about is the upcoming event when an asteroid will slam into the moon. But that’s all anyone can talk about at school and on the night of the big event, Miranda and her family are all staring up at the sky when the events happens.
The asteroid hits the moon, shifting its orbit closer to Earth and causing all hell to break loose. Tides shifts, the weather pattern changes and volcanoes begin erupting in places they weren’t before. Miranda’s mother is on top of things, quickly gathering as much canned food and non-perishable items as she can for their pantry and setting about making sure their home is ready for the long haul without modern conveniences. (You know, silly things like heat, running water and medical supplies).
At times, “Life As We Knew It” is a haunting, scary and bleak novel of survival. Told in the form of Miranda’s journal, we hear about the frustration in keeping the electricity on for any length of time in the Pennsylvania community that serves as a setting for the novel. There’s also an interesting thread about Miranda’s new friend who has found religion and her reaction to the events unfolding.
One fascinating sequence sees Miranda noticing a line for supplies and delaying getting in line for a few minutes to tell a potential love interest that the line is there. Miranda is later chewed out by her mother for going after the potential boyfriend and not putting her family first. It’s an effective moment that underlines the desperation that is being felt by the characters and the chilling ramifications of what the new world order is.
And while the novel has its haunting moments, it also has some things that make you scratch your head and go, “Huh?” The biggest is that despite warnings that something catastrophic could happen to the moon when the asteroid hits it, no one does anything to prepare for it beyond baking cookies and pointing telescopes. As we hear about great tidal waves washing out large coastal area and killing millions. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that no one might recommend evacuating the area due to larger tides. (Of course, part of this could be that Susan Beth Pfieffer’s unnamed president is a thinly veiled stand in for George W. Bush and she could be making some type of political statement).
If you’re looking for a book that will fill you with hope about the human spirit and its will to survive, you probably won’t find that here either. This one is bleak, folks. And that’s even before volcanoes begin erupting and surrounding the planet with a thick cloud of ash, dashing hopes for harvesting crops and making the food situation that much more bleak.
“Life as We Knew It” has garnered some reviews and for the sheer world-building power and haunting nature of the story, Pfieffer is to be commended. However, there are still a few flaws to the story that take it from what could be a great book to just a pretty good one.
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