Title: Life As We Knew It
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publication date: 1 May 2008
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Length: 337 pages
Genre: Post-apocalyptic fiction
Age group: Young Adult
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Buy it: Amazon UK | AwesomeBooks | The Book Depository
High school sophomore Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the moon closer to Earth, the way “one marble hits another.” The result is catastrophic. How can her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis are wiping out the coasts, earthquakes are rocking the continents, and volcanic ash is blocking out the sun? As August turns dark and wintry in north-eastern Pennsylvania, 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 a year’s worth of journal entries, this heart-pounding story chronicles Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.
Have you ever read a book which was so annoying at times that you knew you were not supposed to like it, but for some weird reason you still did? That pretty much sums up how I felt about Life As We Knew It. While the first half of the book really vexed me, I ended up falling in love with the second half and not being able to put the book down.
What put me off and annoyed me the most in the first half was characterization. My God, it’s bad. The main character, a girl called Miranda, is supposed to be sixteen years old. She has two siblings: a younger brother called Jonny, aged 13, and an older brother called Matt, who is 18 (19 by the time the story ends). It’s been quite a while since I was sixteen years old myself but I’m pretty sure neither me, nor any of my classmates behaved or talked the way Miranda does throughout the story. To say that she’s immature and childish would be the understatement of the year. So much so that I found Jonny (just a reminder: he’s only thirteen) a lot more mature than her and that’s never a good sign. And if that wasn’t frustrating enough, their older brother was, unlike Mirandaa, too mature for his age. There was even a scene where, after listening to their mother’s suggestion, he actually says something like “that’s not what we’re going to do”. And that’s where I got beyond irritated. You’re only eighteen, for the love of God! You’re not supposed to be the one to your mother what to do, not even in a situation like this. I don’t know if the author has any children or not but real teenagers aren’t like this, that’s for sure.
Another – slightly less annoying but disappointing all the same – thing I didn’t really like is how slow-paced the book was. Compared to other dystopian and post-apocalyptic books I’ve read before, this one seemed to take a really long time to pick up pace and was far from what I’d describe as “heart-pounding”.
However, the idea of the moon being knocked closer to Earth, causing a number of disasters in its wake is brilliant and despite everything I’ve just said, by the time I got to the second half of the book I was hooked. Although Miranda has finally started to change for the better and, after having to take care of her family during an epidemic, act in a lot more mature way, I was still irritated by Matt’s know-it-all attitude. But by this point, I couldn’t care less. As their food and water supply got scarcer and scarcer, on the verge of running out, I wanted to know what happens next. Despite all their flaws, I even started to like them as a family and wanted to know if they’d survive and if yes, how. In other words, I couldn’t put the book down.
I have to say, this book really puzzled me. This is the first time when, despite great ideas but a rather poor execution, I still managed to enjoy the book, so much so that I’d already ordered the sequel. I’ve no idea why but it really is addictive. I’m hoping the next installment will be a bit better in terms of character development and action, though. All in all, I’d say it’s a decent read which would appeal to a slightly younger audience. It’s not the most action-packed book you’ll ever read but it’s interesting all the same.
“Lisa is pregnant. Dad called around 11 o’clock to let us know. Only Mom had already taken Jonny to his baseball practice and of course Matt isn’t home from college yet, so I was alone to get the big news.
‘The baby is due in December,’ Dad crowed, like he was the first guy in history of the world with a younger second wife about to have a baby. ‘Isn’t that great! You’re going to have a little brother or sister. Of course it’s too soon to tell what it’s going to be, but as soon as we know, we’ll tell you. I wouldn’t mind another daughter myself. The first one I had turned out so wonderfully. How’d you like a baby sister?'”