Life As We Knew It

by Susan Beth Pfeffer
ages: 13+
First sentence: “Lisa is pregnant.”

This book terrified me.

Seriously. I started reading it on Saturday, and by the time I had read the first third, I was freaking out. We’re going to DIE; we HAVE to stockpile food; there’s NO WAY we’ll survive in a catastrophe. I started making lists (at least I didn’t go out and spend hundreds of dollars. Yet.) of things we need to be able to make it; I was completely convinced the world was going to end.

I suppose I should fill you in on the story… Miranda and her family — mom, older brother Matt and younger brother Jonny — live a normal life in a small town in Pennsylvania. She deals with the everyday school stuff; with the tragedy of a friend’s death; with just the little normal, everyday things. And then an asteroid hits the moon. It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal; everyone went out to watch the event. But, the asteroid was bigger than expected, or had more force than expected, and the moon slipped out of orbit (never mind that it’s probably scientifically improbable; Pfeffer had me completely convinced that it WAS going to happen. Soon.). Suddenly life as Miranda knew it was gone (along with all the islands, and many, many people). And that’s just the first couple of chapters.

The rest of the book is Miranda and her family’s efforts to survive. Because I was so terrified, I put the book down on Saturday and had to work the courage up to finish it yesterday. (I almost didn’t, which would have been worse, I think, than finishing it.) But I’m glad I did. The intensity subsided, and what I was left with was a tale of human beings working, learning, adapting, and succeeding and failing in turns. It’s a very human book — in that, I mean it shows us at our best and worst, soaring and falling, giving and taking. I was completely gripped by Pfeffer’s writing; it was very, very real (obviously, as evidenced by my first reaction to it), very, very moving, and very, very terrifying.

I’m not sure I can say I love this book — how can I love something that fundamentally terrified me? — but it’s an excellent catastrophe story; an excellent portrait of a family learning to work together in the face of a rapidly changing, and ever harsher, world. An excellent book.

(I’m not going to read The Dead and the Gone, though. Or not for a while, at least. Curiosity might just get the better of me.)

5 thoughts on “Life As We Knew It

  1. I’ve seen this book making the rounds on several blogs but this is the first time I took the time to read what the book is about. Sounds interesting. I might have to check it out.


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