Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, read by Emily Bauer
Read: based on the recommendation of Kelly (Harcourt, 352 pages)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (finished 2/18/10)
Synopsis: It’s almost the end of Miranda’s sophomore year in high school, and her journal reflects the busy life of a typical teenager: conversations with friends, fights with mom, and fervent hopes for a driver’s license. When Miranda first begins hearing the reports of a meteor on a collision course with the moon, it hardly seems worth a mention in her diary. But after the meteor hits, pushing the moon off its axis and causing worldwide earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, all the things Miranda used to take for granted begin to disappear. Food and gas shortages, along with extreme weather changes, come to her small Pennsylvania town; and Miranda’s voice is by turns petulant, angry, and finally resigned, as her family is forced to make tough choices while they consider their increasingly limited options. Yet even as suspicious neighbors stockpile food in anticipation of a looming winter without heat or electricity, Miranda knows that that her future is still hers to decide even if life as she knew it is over.
Overall Impression: This was another in a series of books that I should add to the list “Scenarios In Which Cori Would Die Fairly Quickly, Probably By Wild Animals Or Exposure.” Miranda’s family ends up surviving based on the quick thinking of her family, particularly her mom. I live by myself and if I needed to live on the food that is currently in my home, I would die in a few days after consuming some frozen eggrolls, cinnamon Puffins, and non-toxic crayons.
Luckily Miranda and her family did not die a week into their apocalyptic nightmare, since that would have made for a crappy book. Their struggle was deftly drawn by Pfeffer in Miranda’s journal. It read like a high schooler’s journal — there were angry rants about her mom and brothers, teenage squeeing over a local celebrity, passages exploring her more-than-friendship with a neighbor boy. But these were few and far between as Miranda was dealing with the realization that there is a good chance she and her family wouldn’t survive. Certain sections of the book are heartwrenching — when she makes the decision that she’d do anything to make sure her younger brother had a shot of survival, for example. And when her family gets sick and it’s everything she can do to help them make it to the next hour, not to mention days and weeks. It was really well done. It is definitely YA writing, though — don’t expect prose that will knock you off your feet. This book was more about plot and character than it was about the writing.
I had a couple gripes. I got tired of the audiobook reader after a while. She did a decent job, but couldn’t quite nail the gravity of the whole thing. Sometimes it felt flippant when it should have been profound. Second, there were a few plot holes that bugged me. For example, how did they continue to get mail (albeit sporadic)? There was no gas and everyone was fending for themselves. It took “neither rain nor sleet nor heat…” to an unbelievable level. I also think I would have handled the deaths of millions (billions) of people differently. It’s hard to believe they could sort of just move on with life knowing that so much of the world is decimated. It seemed a little unrealistic.
Pros: A fast read, interesting scenario to build the story around, seeing the end of the world through the eyes of a normal teenager, watching each of the characters grow and mature
Cons: Unrealistic in parts
Extras: Susan Beth Pfeffer’s blog
Other books I’ve read by Susan Beth Pfeffer: none
Other audioboooks narrated by Emily Bauer: none