Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer: B-

From the back cover:
When Miranda first hears the warnings that a meteor is headed on a collision path with the moon, they just sound like an excuse for extra homework assignments. But her disbelief turns to fear in a split second as the entire world witnesses a lunar impact that knocks the moon closer in orbit, catastrophically altering the earth’s climate.

Everything else in Miranda’s life fades away as supermarkets run out of food, gas goes up to more than ten dollars a gallon, and school is closed indefinitely. But what Miranda and her family don’t realize is that the worst is yet to come.

Told in Miranda’s diary entries, this is a heart-pounding account of her struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar time.

This book is like a cross between The Princess Diaries and Parable of the Sower, only the average likability factor of Mia and Lauren (the protagonists of those books) far exceeds that of Life As We Knew It‘s Miranda. Mix in a generous dollop of a whiny and grating teen (I must admit that Dawn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer would fit the bill) and it’ll be about right.

The plot involves an asteroid that is due to impact the moon. Astronomers encourage folks to go outside and watch this rare phenomenon, but nobody realizes there was an error in the calculations. The moon ends up knocked scarily close to earth, and causes all kinds of environmental repercussions, like tsunamis and volcanic explosions. Millions die. Conditions for the survivors worsen and, like Parable of the Sower, folks figure off “anywhere is better than here,” and so head off to supposedly better places, never to be heard from again.

Miranda’s world gradually shrinks throughout this ordeal until she and her family are living huddled up in the one room of their house with a wood stove. She begins the book (told in a series of journal entries) by complaining about tests and drama with her friends, passes through a period where she inanely prattles on about kissing, and finally, with agonizing slowness, (mostly) stops being so self-pitying and resolves to be more appreciative of what she has, since her family is better off than most. I figured such character growth would be occurring, but was annoyed that at several points she appeared to be on the verge of improvement, only to lapse and instigate petty and annoying arguments with her mother. I suppose this cycle of progress and regression is normal, but that doesn’t make it fun to read about.

While I might not have liked Miranda for the majority of the book, I still really liked hearing about the creepy and disturbing deterioration of civilization that the lunar disaster caused. Part of me is a little unnerved that I seem to enjoy details like that, but when I hear a newscaster announce that the Statue of Liberty has been washed out to sea, I think, “Cool!” Pfeffer also does a good job at conveying the family’s sense of isolation as well as the monotony of having canned tuna and string beans day after day. I like the ending, too.

There’s a not-quite sequel to this book, The Dead and the Gone, which recounts the same events from a different character’s perspective. I plan to check it out.

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  1. Not entirely related to this book, did you know there was a tv show with a sort of similar premise that was on a few years ago? The moon was hit by a meteor and broke into 3 pieces, and everyone was panicked that their orbits would deteriorate and crash into the planet.

  2. Huh. No, I’ve never heard of it. It was kind of cool in this book because the moon was suddenly looming huge in the sky and looked like it might impact at any moment.


  1. […] Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its look at an apocalyptic event from a small-town […]

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