Saturday, February 28, 2009

Life as we knew it by Susan Pfeffer

No shops. No TV. No Electricity. No Daylight. No idea if your family is alive or dead. Could YOU survive? When a freak asteroid knocks the moon from its orbit, horrific tides engulf parts of the globe, and life on earth changes overnight. For 15-year-old Miranda as power, communications and food supplies start to break down, a desperate battle for her family's survival begins.

I first heard about this book at Becky's Book Reviews around a year ago when she interviewed Susan Pfeffer and I immediately added it to my TBR list. I may have heard of it before that, but that was the post that made me add it to the list. One of the things that I try to do with any reading challenges is to pick books that are already on my list so when Carl announced this year's Sci-fi Experience, I figured that this would fit the bill. I have to say, I am really glad that I chose this as one of the books for the Experience.

This is a young adult book told in a journal format, and our main character is 16 year old Miranda who lives with her mother and brothers in Pennsylvania. Like everyone else in the world, Miranda and her family are transfixed as they watch the coverage of the moon being hit by an asteroid. It is a major news event but everyone is reassured by all the experts who are commentating on the event and life is expected to go on as normal. Sometimes though, the experts get things wrong, and in this case they get things very wrong.

With the moon off it's axis, the tides are effected, and the first sign of trouble comes in the form of huge tsunamis around the world, but not long after there are earthquakes and long dormant volcanoes erupting causing massive death tolls. There are increasingly regular power outages, to the point where it is more common to have no electricity than to have it, and the weather is also effected, going from one extreme to another throughout the period of the book.

As soon as Miranda's mother realises that there is a chance that things won't get better they set about stockpiling anything and everything that might help them get by but the biggest worry as things get worse rather than better is that despite all the preparations, there is not going to be enough for everyone to be able to survive.

Reading Miranda's journal as the events go on, we are exposed to her emotions and see how they change. At first it is very normal sixteen year old girl emotions about boys, and in particular her favourite ice skater, about the prospect of learning to drive, fights with her mum and a little confusion about the events in her family with her dad announcing that his new wife is now pregnant. Miranda goes through a range of emotions from anger to despair to acceptance to resignation, and yet throughout the book there are also enough moments of hope (for example the family's first Christmas since the fateful night when everything changed) and love. Pfeffer touches on several different topics such as first love, the way some people might turn to religion during such a time, vigilantism and death of loved ones, and large scale death such as we saw with the tsunamis. In some ways this felt a bit close too home given everything that has been going on here with the bushfires recently.

I normally have one book that is my reading on the train book, and another that is my reading at home book. I started this one on Friday morning when I was not far from work. There was then a problem on the train so I was stuck for half an hour or so so I was able to get a really good start on it. By the time I got home, I just wanted to get to the end to find out what happened. There was no way known that I was going to be able to wait until I got on the train on Monday to finish this book.

It was in turn moving, chilling, realistic and scary and totally worth reading! I was all ready to request the follow up book, but apparently it is not going to be released here until 2010 which is a very long wait.

Reading this book did make me wonder how my son and I would survive in this kind of situation, and the short answer is not very well. I don't know that I would have the presence of mind to be able to get things together, let alone the ready cash that Miranda's mother had. The other thing is that there is just the two of us and so we wouldn't be able to divide the jobs up, but at least I wouldn't have to look at my kids and decide which one had the most chance of survival and therefore give them more food. That and the fact that as Australians we wouldn't have the foggiest how to survive in blizzards or even just temperatures that cold! Brrr!!

When I was looking for the cover image, I had a look at her page at Fantastic Fiction, and I was surprised to see that this author had written so many books over quite an extended period of time. My library doesn't have any of the others, which is a bit disappointing because I will definitely be reading at least the next book!

By finishing this book, I have now completed this year's Sci-Fi Experience. I really enjoy this experience as it does make me read outside of my comfort zone a little, and I enjoyed both books that I read this year.

Rating 4.5/5

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Things Mean A Lot
An Adventure in Reading
Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic
Bookfoolery and Babble
Rosario's Reading Journal


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much, Marg! It got me thinking about how I would survive least I live in a place where it doesn't get too cold. But I wonder if I'd stand a chance.

    Congratulations on finishing the Experience!

  2. Great review Marg. I gotta see if the library has a copy of this. Sounds really interesting. I would hate to even think how me and hubby would survive.

  3. Library has it! Looks like they have several of her books.

  4. I am thinking I am going to have to read this book. It looks good and I have heard lots of good things about it.

  5. It sure sounds like an intersting book. Might just have to add it to my books to read list.

  6. Lina, Kailana and Kathy, I think this is definitely a book worth making an effort to find.

    Nymeth, all that snow would freak me out completely!

  7. This book sounds really good and I've read nothing but good things about it on the blogsphere. Great review!

  8. Wonderful review Marg! I don';t read a lot of Sci fi but I do like this type sometime. I liked The Road and Orx and Crake for example.

    With your recommendation, I'm adding this to my TBR.

  9. I felt that way too. Once I started, I didn't want to stop. Do you plan to read her second book about this same topic?

  10. Samantha and Teddy, I hope you do get to read it, and that you both enjoy it.

    J Kaye, I do plan to, but it doesn't come out here for a long time so it might be a while.

  11. Great review! I loved this as well and linked your review to mine. I'm looking forward to reading her companion novel as well.

  12. Having stumbled upon Susan Pfeffer's "Life as we knew it" through a friend's recommendation, I was drawn into Miranda's journal, feeling the pulse of her emotions as the world unraveled. Pfeffer skillfully weaves a gripping tale that made me ponder my own readiness for such a cataclysmic scenario. As Miranda's narrative unfolded, transitioning from ordinary teenage concerns to a fight for survival, I found myself both chilled and moved, reflecting on the fragility of our modern comforts and the resilience of the human spirit.



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