Book Review: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer


Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It is a young adult novel which took me awhile to get into. However, in the end, I was moved by the book and I will certainly read the sequels. Early on, as the world watches in awe, an asteroid strikes the moon. As a result, the moon shifts noticeably closer to the Earth. Because of this, the Earth’s climate begins to change dramatically, endangering the lives of the entire human race.

Miranda tells her story through diary entries, recounting the beginning of the end of the world—approximately one year in length. The world is afflicted by storms and earthquakes, volcanoes rise and block out the sky, and the temperature plummets. Due to her mother’s quick thinking, Miranda and her two brothers stockpile canned goods, and they continuously chop down trees for their wood stove. They prepare for the impending freeze of winter as the electricity and gas supplies run down, and their hope dwindles.

For awhile, my problem with the book was that the narration was a little too “hunky dory” for my taste. The world is coming to an end around them, and the family focuses on petty things. They squabble, then make up in a very sugary fashion. It was a little off-putting. I also think, however, that the narrator (I listened to this book) was partially responsible for this. Even so, this served as juxtaposition for what was to come. Toward the end, the story is incredibly grim. It is a gradual move, but that is necessary, as it would be too much like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road otherwise—where “bleak” is an understatement.

This premise is unique, I believe. With Deep Impact and Armageddon, the Earth itself is the target of an asteroid, but in this case, the aftermath, rather than the event itself, is the focus. I’m curious to see what the next books will do, as I know the second does not focus on Miranda, but another protagonist, and the third brings them together. I hope that The Dead and the Gone is a road story, as this was fully sedentary. Tension came from within, while a road story continues to drive forward, with the threat coming from any source. I enjoyed it, and at some point I’ll get to the sequels.

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