on September 11, 2006
In this new novel "Life As We Knew It" by Susan Beth Pfeffer, the author of the highly regarded "The Year Without Michael" and many other books, a cataclysmic astronomical event threatens the very existence of the world and all of humankind. An event like this is too immense to imagine in any detail, but the story is told from the point of view of one 16 year old girl living in Pennsylvania, and the apocalyptic event is viewed from the perspective of one person in this seemingly isolated corner of the world.
Miranda begins her diary entries with the usual teen business of school, friends and family with a little digression into figure skating fandom. The forecast collision between asteroid and moon seems like a fun event, as well as an excuse for homework assignments from her teachers, in other words, of interest but not particularly interesting. But the unexpected happens and the collision knocks the moon out of its normal orbit around earth and terrible things begin to happen. Life as Miranda knew it changes quickly and relentlessly from one of normality to a frightening spectre of violent death and terrible deprivation. As suddenly as this happens in parts of world where tsunamis, earthquakes and floods wipe out huge areas of land and people, the changes in Miranda's world occur more gradually but relentlessly. Miranda's world becomes more and more focused on the tragedy and the effects of the global climactic change, and her frame of reference as a teen in a world of school, friends, sports and the future, shrinks down to the day to day survival of herself and her family of four. Miranda struggles to maintain her identity, her physical existence and her hope in the face of frightening odds against her.
The novel is a dark microcosmic view of a small town family facing the worst that life can throw at them, but it never loses hope even in the face of hopelessness. Miranda muses at one point in the book that she might as well enjoy today no matter how bad it is, because tomorrow was going to be worse. And yet there are little joys, rays of hope, tantalizing moments of what passes for normal in the midst of an ever darkening prognosis for survival. Miranda remains true to who she is and her family shows the strength of their commitment to each other throughout this ordeal.
There are no fairy tale endings to this book, but it does end on a hopeful note and the reader is left with the conviction that better days may yet be ahead. There are moments of humor as well as despair, moments of anger as well as love and a compelling story line that makes it hard to put the book down. Miranda's fate becomes a personal issue, we want to know what happens to her and her family and we care.
This is the author's best book to date, sure to be a classroom classic and popular with teens as well as an engrossing read for adults. Don't miss this one!
on October 14, 2008
"Life As We Knew It" is exciting, thought-provoking, and unique in this genre for its realism. By using Miranda's diary as the method to tell the story, the reader really does get a chance to participate in the events as they unfold.
The reviews posted so far on Amazon are sufficient in summarizing the plot and commenting on the quality of the writing. It's obvious that a few issues stand out to many readers, and that those of us who have read this book are interested in what others think about them, so for that reason I'll offer my own opinions.
First, I'm not a scientist, and I can't comment on the feasibility of the asteroid/moon event. To me, it's just a device to set up the story - the author needed a worldwide cataclysm, and invented a cosmic event. If your fiction choices have to line up with hard science and you won't be able to get past this scenario, you probably shouldn't try reading this book.
Yes, I thought the jabs at the President, Fox News, etc., were unnecessary to the story, and only served to alienate part of the audience. Aside from that, I found Miranda's Mom to be a very interesting character. I cheered for her when she took quick, decisive action in buying supplies (even thinking of cat food, tampons, and baby clothes) and growing food. Many readers have accused her of cruelty or inconsistency; but I think her struggles were entirely realistic. She had to make the choice to provide for her family; to her, this meant shutting off her compassion for the outside world - and she's clearly tormented by it. But she still is able to open her heart to enfold her ex-husband and his new wife and unborn child, as well as an elderly family friend; and she does everything she can to provide some sense of normalcy for her family (like sending Johnny to baseball camp).
The biggest turn-off to many readers seems to be Ms. Pfeffer's evident anti-Christian bias, and I agree that it's discouraging to see how many recent teen novels portray people of faith as only brazen hypocrites or deluded fanatics. I understand that in the sequel, she presents the main characters as devout believers who hold to their faith while facing doubts and asking honest questions - but would it have been so difficult to show some balance, instead of reaching for two extremes? The only examples of religious belief the author could show us in "Life As We Knew It" are bit characters who naively hope for God's protection as the world falls apart around them, and poor Megan, who belongs to a sect whose members point fingers of judgment at others and punish themselves even more severely. When disaster strikes in this country, the local churches are the first to provide food, clothing, shelter, and comfort. For every highly publicized group placing blame, there are a dozen organizations and countless volunteers helping to save lives and reclaim what was lost. For all its realism in other areas, it's surprising that you can't find a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, medical clinic, or school sponsored by churches in Miranda's town. They all seem to be too busy berating people and starving themselves to death.
Though the armed gangs were mentioned briefly, they did not seem to be much of a threat. With the shortages of food and other supplies, I think there would have been constant danger from raiders invading private homes. Maybe this was conveniently avoided, since it would have led to the question of the necessity of having a gun to protect one's home and family.
Regardless of its weaknesses, this novel will make you think, and your mind will place you in Miranda's blighted world for quite some time to come as you consider how you and your family would survive there.
on July 6, 2007
Do the concerns of a teenage girl disappear in a post-apocalyptic world? Not for Miranda, the protagonist in Susan Beth Pfeffer's novel about life after a climate-changing astrological event. The moon has been struck by an asteroid, knocked into an orbit nearer Earth, causing tsunamis, flooding, and volcanic activity. High school junior Miranda watches her world turn upside down. Her mother chastises her children for thoughts of generosity and declares that they must think only about their own family's survival. They learn to shop for every possible food item when the shelves are stocked, how to maneuver the gas rationing lines, and how to make the most of their few daily hours of electricity. The family must protect their cat to prevent him from being snatched from the road as a food source.
Miranda thinks most of her mother's disaster-readiness is a bit silly, but she's willing to play along until the world rights itself. Unfortunately, New York, Boston, and Rhode Island are completely under ocean water, and the president has abandoned Washington, D.C. for his Texas ranch. Miranda is still coping with the death of one of her circle of friends, and feeling alienated from her two remaining friends. She has a crush on Dan, and they've been flirting at the town pond every day. Miranda's mom is rationing the canned goods, but Miranda is not above feeling resentful about the family's focus on nutrition for their precious younger son.
Life as We Knew It is an excellent book for discussion in a classroom or book club. Issues of looting, bribery, and rationing are raised. Miranda watches as one friend gets lost to a religious cult, while the parents of her other friend end up sending her off with an older man for a better life (they hope) down south. Services we take for granted, like the post office and police station, run sporadically and only when ordinary citizens put their lives on the line to be there.
The strength of Pfeffer's book is in Miranda's voice, and her conflicted feelings about self-sacrifice, jealousy, and a desire to be a normal teenager. Life does go on even after the apocalypse, and Miranda shows us how a modern teen might react. The female friendships in the book are a bit weak and serve more as background "hot button issues" than as an integral part of the story. Overall, this is a must-read, and definitely a book to try on reluctant readers.
on August 23, 2011
I have only read the first part of this book, but I don't think I'll read any more of it. The author shows very little respect for her readers.
If you're going to write a science-fiction based story about humankind's reaction to an astrononical disaster, you as an author absolutely have an obligation to do your research. This author obviously did no research at all. A visit to any high school Earth science teacher would have improved the "science" immensely. Heck, many of my bright 8th graders could have caught the errors this author missed.
1) An asteroid doesn't glow. A meteor glows as it moves through Earth's atmosphere. The moon has no atmosphere. So, the precipitating event of the book is impossible.
2) The moon's moving closer to Earth wouldn't change its phase. (I give a slight pass on this, because maybe the author intended for the moon to be moved both closer to Earth and also 1/8 of its orbit at the same time - but if she intended that, the viewers on Earth should have seen the moon dart across the sky, which the author did not indicate.)
3) The asteroid hitting the moon could not make it jump magically through space. It would need time to move from point A to point B. The author makes it hop, magically.
4) No debris from the lunar strike? Really? A gigantic collision, and the moon sheds nothing?
I've read the other reviews, and it's clear from them that the author did similarly scant research on basics like electrically-powered water wells, television broadcasting, and cell phone communication. And I also agree that the diary format, while feasible in many stories, doesn't work here: no teenage girl writes details like this. It's a narrative story, told in the first person. The diary concept is needless. And yes, having only read a few chapters, I'm already tired of hearing the thinly-veiled diatribe against George W. Bush. It dates the story so completely as having taken place before 2008. Why do that to your story? (Alas, in this I can compare the novel to "Owen Meany," which I love as much as any other work, but which is sadly dated by Irving's anti-Reagan polemics.)
I'm highly (highly!) unimpressed that an author could sneak all this nonsense past a publishing house. I thought it was supposed to be a grueling and difficult task to get a novel published in this tough climate? Apparently, if you have a fun idea for a teen novel, you can get anything published.
To the author and publishers: I tell my students that they should do their best work out of respect for themselves. This includes fact-checking, research, and editing. Shame on you for failing to live up to that most basic rule of writing.
on February 5, 2011
I am sorry to say I thought this was one of the worst books I have ever read. This is really a shame because the premise of the book is fantastic, and the cover art just begs you to read it. I love me a dystopian/end of the world/get some food storage book, so I was all curled up on a Friday night ready to enjoy. I am sorry to say that in my humble opinion, it was a poorly thought out, ridiculous book.
First of all, Ms. Pfeffer is obviously a very angry liberal. Now to my liberal friends, don't get your dander up, I am not critiquing liberals in general. I am just saying that no matter what your angry politics are, it is a mistake to use them as a platform for your book unless you are a dang good writer, which Pfeffer is not. Let me give you some examples. The President in this novel is very obviously George W. Bush. I don't know why she doesn't just come out and say it or what the point is in trying to oh so cleverly disguise it. The author loves to get her digs in when it comes to conservatives. The problem with this is that it prevents you from suspending your disbelief. You feel like you hear the author's voice rather than a 16-year old teen. For example, the world is falling apart, tsunamis have destroyed the east coast, CNN had lost it's feed, but they won't watch FOX news because it's FOX news. Seriously? Then, throughout the book the mother calls the President "Idiot" all through the book...even when he gets food to them when they are days away from starving. About the third time you think, okay, we've got the point, you hate George Bush. Let it go now, for the sake of your book. The next thing Pfeffer hates is anyone religious. Anyone in this book who prays or believes in God is a bona fide delusional idiot and she portrays them this way any chance she can get. They say things like, "I don't need food, God will fill me." Anyone religious in the book is a mean-spirited, judgemental, repent-you-sinners caricature. Really though, both of Miranda's friends are caricatures: the Crazy Christian and the Selfish Skank.
I probably could have dealt with this if the plot holes weren't so big you could drive a truck through them. In Pfeffer's dystopian world everyone starves politely. There is no looting, no depravity. There are no roving gangs, no one begging for food, no one. The family stays in their home for a year with no one coming to their door until the end when one man asks for some Tylenol. The author never mentions neighbors. There are no safety concerns. The mom lets her teenage daughter just wander around the streets. No problems with armed people. No people walking the interstates, etc. This was so unbelievable. In fact nothing much happens the whole book. They live in their sunroom and watch their food dwindle, and that's pretty much it. No plots, twists, or turns. The people in Pfeffer's society basically think, "Aw heck, guess we're going to die. I'll just lie in my bed and watch my children go. No sense bothering anyone or desperately trying to find food." In her book, no one ransacks a house until the owners die and nearby family takes what they want first. This is not any kind of official mandate, just an unspoken rule. So thoughtful!
It's almost like Pfeffer started the end of the world but then choked -- couldn't close the deal. It's like it's doomsday lite: The positive version! Deaths in this book are nameless and faceless. Suffering is distant--it happens to others, but not her family. Her brother makes it home somehow from upstate NY, no one in her family dies or seriously injures themselves. The only death you witness is the elderly friend who dies of natural causes in a painless and typically polite manner.
Other hard to believe things: The east coast has gone, earthquakes rip through the country, volcanoes erupt, the sun is obscured by ash and the world goes into permanent winter, the police lock the doors and disappear, but the school board meets and decides to keep schools open!! Yes, spontaneous lightning storms are killing people left and right, but darn if the kids don't go to school! That's because God isn't important but higher education is! So you might be starving to death, but at least you know you could have gotten into Cornell. I know I personally would have no problem watching my small children walk all alone through possible death to get to school each day.
Also, anyone who has read any type of end-of-the-world scenario knows the hospital is the last place you want to go once there is no electricity or running water. They run rampant with staph and deadly bacteria. But not here! The hospital is up and running the entire time. And the east coast is gone, Alaska, and California, but there is still internet access whenever the electricity is on.
The mother in the book constantly drills into her children's head that you don't help anyone. Don't tell anyone that supplies have come. When Miranda tells a friend of hers that they are giving out food her Mom berates her for it. Then the family fights and screams hateful things at each other the entire time. The main character in the book, Miranda, is a total brat who yells at her mom because her mom won't let her eat whatever she wants. It made it hard to like these characters or really care about them.
One of the only plot twists is that a form of virulent flu comes to town. We're talking 1918 flu. Anyone still alive basically dies. Except for our heroine's family. They all get terribly sick, but even when everyone else is decimated, and all of the hospital staff except two dies, they are miraculously fine. Too bad it didn't take the Idiot president! Oh, and we find out Yellowstone volcano blows up, but Texas and all states nearby are fine except for a little ash. Anyone who has turned on the Discovery Channel in the last ten years knows that if that volcano in Yellowstone goes, half the continent does as well. It's as if the author was too lazy to do any real research at all.
The book's ending almost made me laugh out loud. Our heroine walks down the empty street one day, expecting to die as there is no more food. But hark! She finds a piece of paper that says the city hall is open! She goes down there right before they close (because you always keep regular hours when the world is ending) and finds out the government is handing out a bag of food from now on each Monday. Where does this food come from? Does it drop out of the sky? Was it trucked in even though there is no gas anywhere? Is it magic food since she has already told us that the factories are destroyed and crops failed everywhere? And how convenient that City Hall is open since we've been told the police, postal office, government officials are all gone. Did a nice receptionist greet her at the door? Did they help her get a new social security card while they're at it? Who cares! The government took care of everyone and the book is over.
Apparently from the number of stars this book has received I am one of the few people who feel this way. So read the book if you'd like and then use it for toilet paper. Unless TP comes in the magic government bag of food that arrives right in the nick of time!
on January 31, 2012
Life As We Knew It is a classic example of why so many post-apocalyptic authors leave their disaster a mystery. An asteroid knocking the moon off its axis takes scientific liberty to such an extreme as to be laughable. If this was the book's only flaw, it could be more easily forgiven, but it isn't. Not by a long shot. The opening few chapters of the book are interesting with the portrayal of desperation and a particularly insightful mother being the highlights. After amassing hordes of food and settling into the day-to-day doldrums, the book goes completely off the rails, and I as a reader wanted to find the nearest bridge and jump off. Descriptions of meals happen just about every 2 to 3 pages. It's not that interesting to read about canned chicken and asparagus 20 times in 60 pages. That Miranda is still worried about the prom with the world falling down around her ears is hilarious. We go to the pond (repeatedly); we follow her to pick up kindling (over and over again). There is a completely unnecessary leftist, liberal, religion-bashing thread that is so poorly represented that it can only be taken as an agenda. About half way through, the novel just devolves into a canned sequence of contrived events. The cat escaping is one that had me laughing, but the one that made me give up on the book was when Miranda's mother sprained her ankle. Miranda hears her fall and runs in to check on her. Apparently, a sprained ankle completely incapacitates a person in the future. She leaves her mother on the floor, abandons her and runs out into the cold without proper attire to go to the hospital. You would have thought she'd had a heart attack or a serious head injury. Her younger brother, he of the well-fed baseball camp and strapping young lad to boot, is said to be unable to get his mother up. Absurd. I've sprained my ankle 6 times in my life, tearing tendons and ligaments. It was in a cast 4 of those times, but never once was I unable to get up. It was all I could take. This is one of the worst representations of world disaster literature I've ever tried to read. Reviews for the rest of the trilogy are even worse than this one. I'll steer well clear thank you.
on August 4, 2014
If you have nothing else to read and have incredibly low standards, this book may be for you.
In the real world, the "end of the worlders" would have already proclaimed the still moving asteroid to be the end of the world, church services daily. The conspiracy theorists would proclaim that the government was not telling us everything, and we are all going to die, except for the rich and powerful who are already in underground bunkers eating caviar and drinking champagne. A representative from every group would be found on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, FOX, MSNBC and the comedy network.
Well, this book definitely cannot be accused of making our children smarter. Asteroids, which can be extremely large, are called asteroids while they are hanging out in space, but once it hits the moon it is in the atmosphere of the moon it is a meteor. When it hits, it is a meteorite. Scientists are also portrayed as dumber than dirt. If there was a chance that a possible collision could occur that would result in the moon moving, it could be easily figured out. (mass x velocity would be the start of this).
It also appears that the moon has installed the ACME Moon Emergency Braking System for those times that annoying meteors decide to turn themselves into meteorites in an unscheduled landing. I was also amazed by the lack of debris thanks to the installation of the ACME Elastomer Surfacing Agent.
Seriously, the largest known asteroid is Ceres, which only hangs out by Jupiter. It is 590 miles in diameter, which is still quite a bit smaller than the 2160 mile diameter of our moon. "But Kelli," yells the fangirl in the back, "this is fiction.". Okay, I will go there. A massive asteroid has hit the moon, which immediately moved it soooo close that you can now make out intricate details of the surface of the moon. The movement happened rapidly in front of our very eyes in which case we are now all dead, unless the moon really does have installed the ACME Emergency Moon Braking System. If that much force occurred that the moon actually moved that quickly towards the earth, it would have continued and hit the earth and demolished our little planet. However, that isn't what would happened. If the moon and the meteorite actually connected with that much force, they would have broken up and rained large and small debris on our planet, and we would have still died.
All the adults and kids were outside with telescopes, binoculars and beer to watch the big collision. They wanted to see the asteroid hit the surface of the moon. BIG LONG SUFFERING SIGH. This was the DUMBEST moment in the book. They wanted to see if there would be a big crater or something. THINK HARD. If the moon was impacted so it moved towards the earth, these people weren't seeing crap, because science and freaking common sense says the impact occurred on the side of the moon that NO ONE COULD SEE. It came towards us so the "asteroid" hit the back side of the moon. If it had hit the side we could see, it would have moved the moon AWAY from us. DUHHHHH, DUHHHHH, DUHHHHH!
This is also the sweetest, little town EVER. No one killed each other for food. Truly, if I had three hungry children, the cat would be a meal, and we would be eating his kibble. I would tell them Horton ran away, and I captured a squirrel and killed it. In the real world, the town would be rife with the desperate killing each other for food and possibly even cannibalism. The people with the most bullets and best aim would be the survivors. As for Mrs. Nesbit, the intelligent would have pooled resources. The heating oil would have lasted longer if they all moved into one house.
The underground well was another moment of stupidity. I lived in a house with an underground well. In the old days, there was a hand pump that brought the water up. Remember on little house on the prairie, there was a hand pump over the sink. Now, we use electric pumps to get water, and without electricity, no one would have freaking water. Also, if the WELL was DRY, it is highly likely that Mrs. Nesbit's well was also dry as they would be more than likely utilizing the same underground aquifer system.
Finally, if the effects of the moon were so severe that Yellowstone erupted, a dormant super volcano, there would be zero hope of magical food showing up at the door in the middle of winter. If it is so severe that the sky in Pennsylvania is black as night then there would be ash on the ground under the "what goes up, must come down" gravity principle. No one would be delivering food, because ash would clog the air intakes, thusly preventing combustion also known as that the thing that makes the motor run. Also, the depth of the ash, if the sky was this dark for this long, would be measured in feet, not inches. Homes would be collapsing under the weight of the ash, but don't worry, with this amount, the animals and people would long be dead from pneumonoconiosis, a life threatening illness caused by inhalation of volcanic ash. Asthma? It isn't asthma.
Zero points are awarded to the author for research, common sense, plausibility, or a plot that makes any type of sense.
As for the characters, I propose they all eat Miranda, so I no longer have to listen to her whine. She wants chocolate. Mom was hiding chocolate. She wouldn't be starving if she could just eat what she wanted. She wants to get to prom. Boys are stealing plywood from windows. She is going to the police. Her mom is hurt. So she runs off and leaves her in the middle of the floor. Christians, who rely on God to get them through, are clearly crazy. She is starving, so she fixes that by going swimming, skating and cross country skiing. She is so miserable and horrible. This is the worst character EVER!
on August 19, 2010
Let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat: I have seen Armageddon way too many times. I've seen The Day After Tomorrow way too many times. Basically, I tend to gravitate toward natural disaster movies. The more disaster, the better! This is my motto. Roland Emmerich and I would be great friends.
Naturally, I would eventually stumble across Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. It has everything I want: totally asinine global disaster caused by a completely impossible event that would never, ever happen ever. Ever. Usually, this sort of thing isn't a problem with me. For whatever reason, this time it is. What happens is this: an asteroid hits the moon. Instead of providing a fun show for everyone on earth, the asteroid happens to pack enough punch to send the moon hurtling out of its orbit. It strolls right up to the earth, and establishes a new orbit, and causes mass chaos. The tides go crazy, gobbling up coastal cities (except for Washington, DC, which somehow manages to escape this fate). Earthquakes rock the world. Every volcano on earth (including Yellowstone) erupts.
We're told of all of this in Miranda Day's diary. Miranda, a rising high school senior, is only sixteen when the world goes to hell, but she valiantly keeps writing down all the details as all of this goes down. The little trooper. Through her diary, we learn about the electrical outages, the price gouging at the gas pumps, the food hoarding, stockpiling wood for winter, the death lists, the roving teen gangs, the starvation diets, and baseball camp. Because even during the end of the world, there's baseball camp.
This is all well and good as a diary. It reads realistically for as unrealistic as the whole situation is. My main problem with this book happens to be the diary. It does a good job describing desperation, but it doesn't give any hint at all about why we should care about these people. The situation grabs you, but the people don't. They're flat aspects on a page, not living people I care about. In a book that demands that you care about the people during an apocalypse, where they are literally fighting for survival, you want to connect with them on some level. All you get are base emotions that are told to me instead of shown.
Then there's the plot. There isn't one. The world ends, it keeps ending, and lots of people die. The end. While that might be realistic and true to life, it's only absorbing because it's the apocalypse. If you're used to apocalypse fare, you need something else to happen because while huge tidal waves and food shortages are interesting, it's just scenery. Something needs to happen. These characters limit themselves to surviving in a house. Mentions are made of threats that could present a problem for them (roving armed gangs, for instance), and still nothing happens. Opportunities are explicitly laid out in front of these characters that would jump start a plot, and they routinely turn those opportunities down. Go to school every day? Nope, that's too dangerous. Move to where it's rumored to be better? Why, that would present hazardous adventure! Can't have that! It's not that you have to get out of the house to have a plot, but for the love of god let something happen to these characters. It's just day after day of chopping wood and eating canned string beans. This does not a story make.
All in all, it started losing my attention by the end. I'd gotten to the last reference I could take of canned goods, I suppose. I don't think I'll bother with the other two in the series.
on January 23, 2009
Having read the previous 1-star reviews from G. Kochanski and M. Tucker Brawner, and the 2-star review by David K. Taggart, I won't repeat their sentiments though I agree wholeheartedly with their assessment of Life As We Knew It. Though I'm an atheist, I find Pfeffer's treatment of the only Christians in the book horrific and unfounded. Though a political progressive, I find her treatment of a barely masked George Bush hitting way below the belt. Nor does Pfeffer get the science right. Nor the diary form. The only thing about this that was diary-like was that the book was divided into dated entries. The tone was nothing like a diary, and diaries don't include elaborate quotes and extensive dialog. They just don't. Worst of all, I don't think Pfeffer gets people right either. Sure, plenty of people, in a disaster, will behave poorly, but in my experience they're in the minority. Governments, from the local on up, typically do what they can to address the needs of their constituents, but not according to Pfeffer. Why, with so little fuel, are people holing up in their inefficient individual dwellings? Why aren't neighborhoods organized into groups who will watch out and care for one another? In my experience, this is what people do in a disaster. And those who don't (who in this book are given the status of hero) are hardly deemed heroes, but villains. The world may not have had disasters of quite this magnitude, but we've had plenty of big ones: the 2004 Christmas tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and many more. In all of these, vast numbers of human beings have acted in caring and inventive ways and have maintained their humanity in the face of horror. For children's/young adult book examples we can look to Laura Ingalls Wilder and The Long Winter to see how a town behaved in the face of near starvation. And of course, Anne Frank. Life as We Knew It could have been a great story, but the author's attitude, bias, ignorance, poor writing style, and cynical view of humanity, turned out one of the worst reading experiences of my life.
on September 16, 2011
By the time I got to the end, I was WAY ready for it to be over, and was disappointed. If you want to read a 16-year old's journal entries during a year of catastrophe, go for it. The main character's whining got on my nerves. Minor characters floated in and right back out of the story - possible in this situation, but it caused a disjointed story (perhaps to be expected for a journal). And yes, quite contrived. Teenagers may enjoy it, but I told mine that it wasn't worth the time.