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Life as We Knew It Hardcover – October 1, 2006
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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.
Veteran author Susan Beth Pfeffer, who penned the young adult classic The Year Without Michael over twenty years ago, makes a stunning comeback with this haunting book that documents one adolescent's journey from self-absorbed child to selfless young woman. Teen readers won't soon forget this intimate story of survival and its subtle message about the treasuring the things that matter most-family, friendship, and hope.--Jennifer Hubert
From School Library Journal
Grade 6-8–Pfeffer tones down the terror, but otherwise crafts a frighteningly plausible account of the local effects of a near-future worldwide catastrophe. The prospect of an asteroid hitting the Moon is just a mildly interesting news item to Pennsylvania teenager Miranda, for whom a date for the prom and the personality changes in her born-again friend, Megan, are more immediate concerns. Her priorities undergo a radical change, however, when that collision shifts the Moon into a closer orbit, causing violent earthquakes, massive tsunamis, millions of deaths, and an upsurge in volcanism. Thanks to frantic preparations by her quick-thinking mother, Miranda's family is in better shape than many as utilities and public services break down in stages, wild storms bring extremes of temperature, and outbreaks of disease turn the hospital into a dead zone. In Miranda's day-by-day journal entries, however, Pfeffer keeps nearly all of the death and explicit violence offstage, focusing instead on the stresses of spending months huddled in increasingly confined quarters, watching supplies dwindle, and wondering whether there will be any future to make the effort worthwhile. The author provides a glimmer of hope at the end, but readers will still be left stunned and thoughtful.–John Peters, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
I bought this Kindle book and its Audible companion quite a few years ago and just forgot about it. I don't know what brought it to mind now, but I am glad I found it again.
Not only is the story engaging from the very beginning, Emily Bauer's narration keeps it all alive. I love that this particular disaster stays rather calm in the crises as the mother tries to get her family prepared and she fiercely protects them.
The story starts with a family that is probably as familiar as our own, divorce included. It shows how love is still there even where the living together failed. And the children of this break up are not less well off, just different.
As the world becomes spread out because of the lack of working communication devices, the daughter keeps her diary going. It is through her communications with herself that we learn the story of life after the meteor hit the moon and causes tidal waves, earthquakes, volcanos and more. The global mess becomes personal as this teen tries to adjust from boys and kisses and proms to washing the laundry by hand and staving off hunger.
I highly recommend this book. There was a lot to learn here for all of us.
This choice to keep our characters realistically under-informed, rather than give in to the temptation to paint a broader picture for the reader with information someone in our narrator's position most likely wouldn't have, is typical of the book. Pfeffer is committed to telling a small, well-thought out and painstakingly detailed story of survival and loss, not making a big-budget thriller. The biggest threats to Miranda and her family aren't thousand-foot high tidal waves or marauding gangs of punks on motorcycles - they are starvation, freezing to death, the chimney getting backed up and smoke from the woodstove suffocating them in their sleep. And they're all the more frightening for it.
If you're looking for a YA story where our main character finds the hero within them and rises up to change the world for the better, this isn't it. Miranda spends most of the story scrambling to survive, getting weaker and weaker even as she finds an ability to persevere you wouldn't know she had from her pre-apocalypse self. It's intensely bleak, and (view spoiler) But if you'd like a tale about how to survival the impossible from an authentically teenage perspective, this book is worth your time.
Downgraded for being at times painfully repetitive - thematically appropriate, we experience the family's decline as slowly as they do, but the book does drag on. Miranda's voice also rings true, but the choice to stick with a recognizably often selfish and not necessarily insightful or central to the action teenage narrator can and does take away some of the depth of the journey.
So, here's the thing - I liked it (4/5 stars) and think that it would probably be fine for her in several years. When I was her age, I remember worrying almost constantly. I had realized that death was inevitable and that there were so many ways that could happen. I worried about nuclear war on a daily basis, car accidents, cancer, etc. This stage passed pretty quickly but would come back occasionally for years. While I don't want her to be sheltered, I also don't want to scare her unnecessarily. And, I have to admit that this book could do that.
Astronomers have informed everyone that an asteroid is going to hit the moon so everyone sits outside in their lawn chairs and watches the show. Pretty quickly they realize that something isn't right. The moon tilts and starts moving towards the earth. Luckily, it does stop but the orbit has completely changed. Science lesson everyone - the moon actually impacts a lot here on earth. The first effect noticed is the tides - tsunamis are reported and much of the coastline is destroyed. LAWKI tells us one family's survival story. The narrator, Miranda, is a 16-year-old high school student. Honestly, she is fairly annoying for the majority of the book. She would have moments of clarity but then would say that she didn't understand that things weren't going to "get back to normal". In some scenes, the adults weren't much better. They believed the school was going to be able to provide lunches for their children when there was little to no electricity, gas rationing (so no trucks/trains coming in) and very limited supplies. There are other effects on the weather and the atmosphere (again, didn't most people have basic science knowledge to know that the moon's pull would cause these things?)
Anyway, it was a good story even if a little annoying in spots. I do wish the author hadn't chosen to insert such strong political and religious beliefs into a book for children. It seemed that most of the adults were either ultra-liberal (bad-mouthing the president - Bush at the time) or religious zealots (like the pastor who is eating food that his parishioners give him while they starve to death in the name of God.) I would have liked a more balanced approach to both sides as I do believe that most people are somewhere in the middle in real life.