Review – Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

life“It seemed like everyone on the road was out tonight.  Some of the people were on their decks having late barbecues, but most everyone else was in front of their houses, like we were.  The only one I didn’t see was Mr. Hopkins, but you could tell from the glow in his living room that he was watching on TV.

It was like a big block party.  The houses are so widespread on our road, you couldn’t really hear anything, just a general happy buzz.

When it got closer to 9:30, things got really quiet.  You could sense how we were all craning our necks, looking toward the sky.  Jonny was at the telescope, and he was the first one who shouted that the asteroid was coming.  He could see it in the night sky, and then we all could, the biggest shooting star you could imagine.  It was a lot smaller than the moon, but bigger than anything else I’d ever seen in the sky.  It looked like it was blazing and we all cheered when we saw it.

For a moment I thought about all the people throughout history who saw Halley’s Comet and didn’t know what it was, just that it was there and frightening and awe inspiring.  For the briefest flick of a second, I could have been a 16-year-old in the Middle Ages looking up at the sky, marveling at its mysteries, or an Aztec or an Apache.  For that tiny instant, I was every 16-year-old in history, not knowing what the skies foretold about my future.

And then it hit.  Even though we knew it was going to, we were still shocked when the asteroid actually made contact with the moon.  With our moon.  At that second, we all realized that it was Our Moon and if it was attacked, then we were attacked.

Or maybe nobody thought that.  I know most of the people on the road cheered, but then we all stopped cheering and a woman a few houses down screamed and then a man screamed, “Oh, my God!” and people were yelling, “What?  What?” like one of us knew the answer. (pg 18-19)

I knew it.  I just knew it was going to be a big huge mistake to start reading this book when I had so much homework to do.  It is completely unputdownable.  Miranda is just a normal Sophomore in high school, aggravated because of all this asteroid-hitting-the-moon nonsense that has only made all of her teachers give her more homework; but when the asteroid hits, it does more damage than anyone expected.  Miranda and her family must do everything they can just to survive not only the changes in weather, but also an absent government and missing family members.

This book reminded me of Z for Zacharia, but all of the problems that I had with Z for Zacharia were totally absent from this story.  Both are told from the perspective of teenage girls who are surviving in an apocalyptic world.  Whereas I was concerned that the protagonist of Z was somewhat unrealistic, I think Miranda’s voice is perfect; we are privy to the emotional and physical changes that Miranda must go through to survive.  We are aware of her innermost thoughts, just as it should be in a diary.  She was a teenage girl that I think anyone can relate to.  Ultimately, I think the stories are trying to tell two different stories.  Z for Zacharia is an action story, and while there is action in Life as We Knew It, it is much more about survival.  I think that the form of a diary worked much better for Life as We Knew It.

Pfeffer is a talented writer.   There’s so much in this story; Pfeffer included so much about the life as they knew it and their lives now.  Between religious zealots and dealing with death and grief very realistically, Pfeffer convinced me from page 1 and I hope you will be convinced, too.  I was so convinced that I when I woke up this morning, all I could think about was Miranda and her family; the first thing I had to do was make sure they were okay.  It also got me thinking a lot about what my own life would be like if I were living in the world Pfeffer created.  It’s a terrifying thought, but it really made me think about my life and what I would do. Things I need to acquire: a bigger pantry, pre-stocked with plenty of canned food and vitamins and aspirin.  Also, a wood stove.

We are with Miranda from the beginning, when she goes from a normal, somewhat selfish teenager, to an adult ready to face the hardships ahead.

I never knew I could love as deeply as I do.  I never knew I could be so willing to sacrifice things for other people.  I never knew how wonderful a taste of pineapple juice could be, or the warmth of a woodstove, or the sound of Horton purring, or the feel of clean clothes against freshly scrubbed skin.

It wouldn’t be New Year’s without a resolution.  I’ve resolved to take a moment every day for the rest of my life to appreciate what I have.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  It’s excellent.

I’m also geared up to read the companion novel The Dead and the Gone, which takes place during the same time, but in New York City instead of rural Pennsylvania.

92% – Seriously.  Go read it.

Also reviewed by:

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Jackets and Covers
The Written World
Bart’s Bookshelves
YA Fabulous!
Hey Lady!
things mean a lot
Books on the Brain
Presenting Lenore
Bookfoolery and Babble
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The YA YA YAs
bookshelves of doom

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10 thoughts on “Review – Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

  1. I am so happy I picked this up recently! I can’t wait to read it especially after reading your review.

    (btw, I’m sorry it’s taking me so long to get back to your email – I’ve been super busy the last couple days. I promise I’ll get back to you soon, and if I forget, feel free to nudge me. Too much going on in my brain!! 😀 )

  2. I liked this book, too, and I hear The Dead and the Gone is quite good as well. There’s one particular scene I’ve heard about that I’m interested in reading.

  3. Wonderful review! I already got the dead and the gone as well, but have put it aside and am trying to read something else instead. But I did peak on the first few pages, and it was very hard to put it down!!

  4. Yay! So happy you liked it!

    I agree that Pfeffer did a great job with this story. I bought into it from page one, and loved the way it was told in diary form.

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