“Life As We Knew It” by Susan Beth Pfeffer

06 May


Ok, "Life As We Knew It" is an "end of the world" type novel, which I realize is not everyone's cup of tea. Admittedly, it's also a bit of a downer, as you might expect of a chronicle of life after an asteroid knocks the moon out of its orbit, creating devastating volcanoes, tidal waves, earthquakes, and climate events. Still, 16 year-old Miranda, who keeps a diary of the time leading up to and following the disaster in her northern Pennsylvania neighborhood, gives us great insight into a world where even basic survival becomes threatened. I literally could not put this book down. I loved the gradual descent of Miranda's life from worries about boys, figure skating, swimming, and high school to waiting in food lines, foraging for kindling, severely restricting her food intake, and, finally, trying desperately to save her flu-ridden family members from death. Miranda believably transforms from a typical self-centered, sort of bratty teenager into a strong, brave young woman willing to sacrifice herself to save others. It's a compelling, thrilling, highly readable story that left me hanging on just about every word.

I don't want to give too many plot points away, because I think much of the impact of this novel lies in the slow disintegration of Miranda's entire way of life. I will say that Miranda is a fully realized, complex character, and you will absolutely follow her struggle every step of the way. The relationship between Miranda and her mom is full of the kind of sniping, backtalking, and bruised feelings that you'd expect in a real mom-teen relationship. In other words, it's perfect because it's so real. And while the book is a touch depressing — let's face it, millions of people die after the asteroid hits — it's also inspiring, as Miranda and her family fight against insane odds to survive in heartbreakingly brutal conditions. In their struggle, there is hope, as Miranda discovers that a life where one is cold, hungry, lonely, and afraid can still be a life worth living. I wholeheartedly recommend this wonderful novel, which is sure to generate lots of discussion among readers. While it's a "clean" book (no swearing, sex, etc.) know that the general themes included here are disturbing. I'm thinking about 7th grade and up for this one, although you folks know yourselves best.

PS – The sequel, "The Dead and the Gone" is due out in June.


Posted by on May 6, 2008 in Uncategorized


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4 responses to ““Life As We Knew It” by Susan Beth Pfeffer

  1. aprilhenry

    May 6, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    I totally loved this book AND the sequel. I’ll be reviewing them in the Oregonian next month.

    • mel1317

      May 8, 2008 at 2:53 pm

      I just finished “The Dead and the Gone” and blogged about it here. I, too, enjoyed them both, although I preferred “Life As We Knew It.” I think I’ve definitely had my fill of disaster / apocalypse teen lit for awhile!

  2. Anonymous

    August 18, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    loved it

    This book made me want to appreciate life more and not worry about unimportant things. I would recommend it to everyone.

    • mel1317

      August 21, 2008 at 2:49 pm

      Re: loved it

      Yes, I totally agree! I really thought this book had such a positive message, despite Miranda’s world having become so bleak and desperate. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, too. Don’t forget about the sequel, “The Dead and The Gone.” Thanks again!


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