Sunday, 19 June 2011

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This book was chosen for a reading group. It was not one that I would have ordinarily picked for myself but I decided to give it a go anyway.

Author: In all honesty, I don’t know very much about the author. I just know that she’s American and that she’s written quite a number of books for younger readers.

Presentation: My book was a bit of a weird shape. It seemed wider than it should have been given the vertical length of it. It is written as diary entries broken down into 4 parts (the seasons of the year) and then chapters as well. It is 337 pages long.

Story: Miranda is your typical schoolgirl. She works hard to obtain her grades. She’s on the swim team. She has a couple of close friends. She’s a bit obsessed with the local celebrity. She lives at home with her and her little brother while her big brother is at uni and her dad has a new life with a new (newly pregnant) wife. But then disaster strikes the whole world. A meteor hits the moon, sending it out of its orbit and pushing it closer to Earth. Tsunamis wipe out all low-lying coastal areas. Earthquakes hit. Volcanoes all start erupting; including those that have been dormant for a long time… even some new ones start erupting. With so many volcanoes spewing out ash, the sun is soon blocked out by a thick cloud layer. Food becomes scarce, a wood stove is imperative. People start dying of diseases not local to their environment. Only the fittest will survive.

Thoughts and impressions: It took me a little while to really get into the book, but once I did I was completely sucked in by everything. It is not the story of the apocalypse. It is the story of one girl’s struggle for survival. It is a very personal story, even more so because of the form it takes (her personal diary, in case you forgot.) There’s a lot of small details about their daily comings and goings, but for me that just added to the personal story rather than making it a ‘disaster on a large scale’ story.
I found the book to be very thought provoking. I felt like I was going through everything that the character was going through. When I read it we had terrible weather here: the wind was going mad and it was constantly dull – this just added to the feeling that her world could well be my world. I felt guilty every time I ate a full meal instead of just a tin of mixed veg or something. I had an urge to go and stock up on tinned and jarred foods, to make sure my pantry was full, to make sure I had enough pet food for the animals…
At times I felt like the author deliberately wrote the character as dense rather than na├»ve. The scene where she learns about all the volcanoes in the world erupting being one such example. I would have thought that at 16, you’d know that every single one of the world’s volcanoes erupting at the same time spells big trouble, but Miranda seemed to be stuck in the belief that because there are no volcanoes near where she lives, she would not be affected.
There were some scenes that didn’t add to the story. They should either have been cut or expanded upon. One such scene was the one where Miranda met Brandon (her idol) at the lake and went ice skating with him. It is never touched upon again. Did Brandon really exist? Or did Miranda have one hell of a hallucination? We, as readers, do not know. It should either have been cut from the final version of the story or something should have happened later on to confirm that Miranda had dreamt it all up. Instead, we’re just left with that one random scene that never went anywhere.
Although at times she is annoying or exasperating, Miranda is a very relatable character. The way that she lashes out at her mother in particular is something I know I did myself at that age.

Style: Nothing in particular to say about the style. It worked well for the story. Not very detailed, but it didn’t need to be.

Final verdict: I think that this one will stay with me for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. 4 stars.

Extra notes: No sex. There may have been some swearing, but it didn’t stand out to me. There are two other books in this series, but after having researched their content, I’ve come to the conclusion that no message of hope can be offered in such a world and I’d rather remember the characters as they are now, rather than as their personalities will be shaped in the last book.

1 comment:

  1. I remember in middle school I had to do an English project with this book. It felt like a really long time ago, but it was porbably like a few years ago. I liked this book. It was really powerful. At the time, it scared me, with the whole end-of-the-world thing. That's not something I was thinking about at the time. But this book was really well written, and made the end of the world seem real. I agree with you: this book will stay with me for a long time. I didn't read the rest of the books that follow this one, but it doesn't matter, because this book had a great impact on me. I'm glad we both enjoyed it.
    Thanks for the review!

    Alyssa Susanna


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