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104 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hope against hope in a world of lunacy.......
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...
Published on September 11, 2006 by M. Hanners

versus
259 of 338 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Thank goodness for the magic bag of food!
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...
Published on February 5, 2011 by aes74


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104 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hope against hope in a world of lunacy......., September 11, 2006
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This review is from: Life As We Knew It (Life As We Knew It Series) (Hardcover)
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!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant and painful read, October 14, 2008
By 
"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.
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64 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Do the concerns of a teenage girl disappear in a post-apocalyptic world?, July 6, 2007
By 
This review is from: Life As We Knew It (Life As We Knew It Series) (Hardcover)
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.
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259 of 338 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Thank goodness for the magic bag of food!, 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!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Canned goods and the apocalypse, August 19, 2010
By 
Mara E. (Pennsylvania) - See all my reviews
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.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but I expected more from both the author and her characters, April 5, 2008
I read and loved Pfeffer's The Year Without Michael as a teenager, and was intrigued to see this new (to me) title on the shelves.

I LOVED the concept of this book. I thought the idea of the end of the world and the way it was shown through the eyes of the main character, Miranda, were honest and interesting. The plot moved apace and, even though the main characters spend most of their time in their house, it never got boring. The setting was well-rendered and their were moments of great humor and awful despair.

Something that surprised and disappointed me about the book was the author's heavy handed portrayal of religion and those who practice it. I thought Pfeffer was capable of more nuance in her writing; in this case, however, every religious person in the novel is painted with a heavy hand. They are without exception selfish, fanatical, bigoted, and ultimately, evil (taking food from others who need it more or passively killing themselves to see God without thought for their families).

Another frustrating aspect of the novel was the mentality of the protagonists, who hoard their food and water, talk about how much they disliked their neighbors. In this case, the survival-of-the-fittest mentality won out--they were selfish and kept to themselves, survived for a time, and ultimately were rescued by the very government they despised. Although I'm sure this mentality would present itself were this situation to occur in real life, the ending still seemed bizarre to me. And, to be honest, the characters of Mom and Miranda seemed like strong, compassionate women who would be just the type to rally the community or to help others. However, they immediately became as cutthroat as could be. Perhaps Pfeffer intended this to be a lesson that even the best of us can descend rapidly and immediately into survival mode. Still, I found it disappointing.

I would still recommend this book to others for a fascinating and thought-provoking read, but was too frustrated/disappointed with these aspects to give the book five stars. Hopefully, in the next book, Pfeffer will be back to form as I remember her in The Year Without Michael--more able/willing to show the shades of gray instead of just the absolutes.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great What If tale, May 16, 2007
This review is from: Life As We Knew It (Life As We Knew It Series) (Hardcover)
When I was growing up during the 1970's I remember this article in the Sacramento Bee warning us of the massive earthquake that would cause California to slid into the Pacific ocean. Jean Dixon, a psychic and favorite of the tabloids, gave similar gloom and doom predications. My mother would tell me that it wouldn't happen. That this was just a way to sell newspapers.

But I oftened wondered what if they were right?

Susan Beth Pfeffer in her latest book LIFE AS WE KNEW IT explores this theme. Miranda is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She lives with her younger brother and mother. Her father's new wife is pregnant and asks her to be the godmother.

She struggles for good grades, has an crush on a local ice skater named Brandon, and struggles with one of her good friends overly religious views.

Then comes word of meteor headed on a collision path with the moon. The media plays this up and whole neighborhoods have block parties to celebrate the event. But then something goes terribly wrong.

Miranda watches as her life changes. Gas goes up to $12 a gallon, supermarkets run out of food, and school is closed indefinitely.

Just when she thinks it can't get any worse, it does.

This story is told in diary form and asks an important question. What's most important in this life? Thoughout the novel, Miranda watches as her family pulls together. And hope is not a four letter word.

I couldn't put this book down. The author did a great job of showing the horror and terror of a world disaster through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old. Miranda tries to stay normal though the world falls apart. She even wonders if Dan, her boyfriend, would know she was even around if things were normal.

This is a great what-if story and will make you think long after you finish the last page. And isn't that what good fiction is all about?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Eh., February 7, 2012
By 
I finished this book in only a few nights, which is becoming an increasingly rare thing for me, so I have to give the book credit for being engaging and interesting enough to hold my attention and make me want to finish it.

The only problem is that by the end I was disappointed, and for several reasons. I understand now that this book is part of a 3-book series, but that only the last book continues this book's story. However, I still felt let down that this book does not tell us what happens to many important characters. They just up and leave, and that's it. Part of what kept me reading was wondering what happened to these people, and then, poof; it's over.

Characterization was a bit of a problem also. I could cut it a little slack since it's told from the perspective of a 16-year-old's journal, but I still wish I'd gotten a better "feel" for all of the major players, Miranda included. They just never quite felt entirely real.

And then there's the stuff that the author just didn't bother to research that got irritating. Apparently most of the science (about the moon, the weather, etc.) doesn't add up; but to be honest, I wouldn't have known if I hadn't read others' reviews. But the well kept working without electricity? They tossed their hair clippings into the fire to "watch them sizzle" but don't mention the horrible stench that would've caused? The wood stove that they're sleeping in front of backfired and they woke up from the smoke, not the *boom*? The mayor has a snowmobile, that he could have used to go find and talk to people, but simply wonders out loud why no one's coming for supplies? These are all pretty big errors, and I'm surprised they made it past an editor, let alone the author herself.

Also, as much as I could be called a "crazy liberal," the jabs at George W. Bush and Fox News were a little much. The crazy Christians didn't bother me as much, but I would've liked to see some realistically reasonable Christians as well. It's pretty far-fetched to think the only Christians Miranda comes into contact with are in a cult.

And that's why, as much as I honestly enjoyed the read, I can't rate it any higher than a 3.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy, Lazy Writing, August 23, 2011
By 
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.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by Susan Beth Pfeffer, July 19, 2010
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There are real problems with the idea of this story. I do love the idea but the writing shows that she really didn't give much thought on the subject. First of all for the moon to move that quickly, I don't care what might have happened is impossible. Second of all the no electricity concept is good but does this author not realize when you have no electricity, water wells do not work. The old ones where you draw water up from the well but in this day and time water wells are used with electric pumps. I also am appalled that we have this idea that the government will save us from this catastrophe. My question was at the end, why were the government officials in such good shape where everyone else was dying, What made them above all the problems? And why would I believe for a moment that the government would still be able to function at this level after such a catastrophe? It's an idea well worth writing a book about but it needs to be done with better thought.
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Life As We Knew It (Life As We Knew It Series)
Life As We Knew It (Life As We Knew It Series) by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Hardcover - October 1, 2006)
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