Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
360 pages, Paperback
Published on May 1, 2008
Summary: Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.
Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda's struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all--hope--in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.
Overview: Miranda Day is your average teenage girl. She lives in a small, close-knit community in Pennsylvania. And a meteor is about to hit the moon. Now, from that quick assessment, you've basically got the basis of this apocalyptic novel. And overall, the book was easy to follow, with the apocalypse scenario scarily realistic. It was intense and dark without getting to disturbing or depressing. Pfeffer's writing is smooth and feels like a teenage girl. Miranda was a good protagonist, even if she was a little despairing. My favorite part of this novel had to be the way the moon was described. I've always loved looking through telescopes and watching the moon up-close, and the theory that the moon could one day be so near that it overshadows everything, day and night, was eerie in just the right way. This novel was definitely fast-paced, without too much backstory to cloud Miranda's diary with her past unrealistically. It's a tough job sounding like a teenage girl and especially in providing her past without making it overly obvious that the author is trying to make readers sympathize with the protagonist. Pfeffer does a wonderful job of creating a world racked with unnatural scenarios and filled with death and destruction.
Miranda was an easily likable girl thrust into strange circumstances. Through it all, she seemed real, not filled with bravado or a false sense of security. I feel that it would have been all too easy for Pfeffer to make her a hero, someone willing to sacrifice herself for her family. But she doesn't. And still somehow she comes out seeming like a real-life teenager, not really selfish or selfless. She has faults and makes horrifying mistakes, but I still liked her through it all. Miranda's mom was also a great character. She was sweet and caring and had real emotions without seeming like an overprotective, paranoid mother. My favorite character was Matt, her older brother, because he always seemed to know exactly how to react to the strange events in this novel. Johnny, her younger brother, was cute and I loved him too, because he was the lightness this novel sometimes lacked. My grievance: Miranda sometimes acted childish and selfish in the worst way, which sometimes made me mad. Also, Miranda's religious friend, Megan, was met with a terrible end and I would've liked to see the priest who caused her death punished at least a little.
The hole apocalyptic theme was well-done. It was eerie and scary and dark without seeming overwhelming or completely hopeless. Pfeffer did her research and it showed. Miranda's story was well-crafted, with every scene more gripping than the last. I loved the dream like scene where Miranda ice-skates with her idol, even though it brought a sense of lonesomeness into the story. Her brief but passionate romance with Dan was cute but a little too easy to me. Even though the tragedy can get a little overboard at times, it all held an air of reality; it wasn't so sad that nothing good ever happened, but it was sad enough that it felt like the end of the world. A problem I had with it was the ending when everyone gets the flu; (spoiler) it seemed a bit too contrived that all of them survived, even if it was by strange coincidences. I'm not sadistic, but it just seemed like a twist that didn't really need to be there. Lastly, I loved the last few pages. For the sake of not spoiling everything, I'll just say it was uplifting and left me with a tear in my eye and a hope that maybe all wasn't as dire as it previously seemed.
The writing wasn't exactly a strong point, but it served its purpose. I was impressed by the way Pfeffer delivered Miranda's diary entries, since sometimes it seems like writers push the characters into writing diaries so that they seemed unrealistic or forced. Miranda's entries felt real, for the most part. Sometimes, though, Pfeffer's writing seemed mature beyond Miranda's years. While, yes, Miranda was forced to grow up within a few short months, years before she normally would've, it also seemed like halfway through, she gained a perspective that wasn't as realistic. That being said, I liked how Miranda sometimes got mad and wrote angry entries, or depressed entries, or happy entries. They reflected well how Miranda felt, like an actual diary might.
Cover: 5 stars
Characters: 4 stars
Plot: 4.5 stars
Writing: 3.5 stars
Overall: 4 stars