Sonderbooks

Sonderbooks Book Review of

Life As We Knew It

by Susan Beth Pfeffer


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Life As We Knew It

by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Reviewed February 29, 2008.
Harcourt, Orlando, 2006. 337 pages.

But the moon wasn’t a half moon anymore. It was tilted and wrong and a three-quarter moon and it got larger, way larger, large like a moon rising on the horizon, only it wasn’t rising. It was smack in the middle of the sky, way too big, way too visible. You could see details on the craters even without the binoculars that before I’d seen with Matt’s telescope.

An asteroid striking the moon begins a series of disasters upon the earth—tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, climate change. Miranda had been thinking about the end of her junior year and what she’d be doing this summer. She hadn’t thought she’d spend the summer trying to figure out how to survive.

Life As We Knew It is gripping, dramatic, and well-written. I’m afraid it’s also horribly depressing.

Years ago, I saw an episode of James Burke’s Connections show where he talked about what would happen if we lost electricity and other modern conveniences. Would we even know how to grow food? How to milk cows or slaughter chickens? Would we be able to survive?

I found it interesting that Miranda’s family, aside from an attempt at growing vegetables, were still pretty much at the mercy of what they could purchase to eat. They had to live in hope that the electricity would come back some day, that someone would get food to the town. It discouraged me to realize I wouldn’t do much better!

This book would make for lively discussion in a book group. How would you respond to such a situation? I liked it that it was narrated by a high school student—because we can all understand how much that student would prefer a normal life and normal high school concerns.

I’m afraid I related a little too much to her single mother—that probably kept me from really enjoying the book right there. It was too easy for me to imagine myself in that desperate situation, and wonder how I would respond.

I do think that in such a situation, I’d be force to turn to my faith in God—so I disliked it that in this book, Miranda had a friend with a church that presented a caricature of faith in God—a twisted, destructive trust, with a controlling and selfish leader at the head of the group. How sad if, in such a desperate situation, you had only yourselves to rely upon—and hope that some day the government would get it together enough to help you survive.

So, this was a well-written story, and did have food for thought. But now I’m going to look for something light and cheerful to read!