Based on what I’d been told, I picked this up thinking is was going to be in diary/journal format. Novels written in said manner aren’t exactly my thing, more so after reading Go Ask Alice. The whole, it like reading “your best friend’s diary” thing never pulls me in, so I was a little skeptical when I decided to read this. It’s also why I held off for so long.
With Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It, I found the somewhat apocalyptic story is more of a chronical of terrifying life altering events for Miranda and her family. This is the first book of what started off as a trilogy, but eventually became a saga known as Last Survivors.
After a meteorite collides with the moon and knocks it out of orbit, everything goes haywire on planet Earth. Which is to be expected. There are tidal waves wiping out cities and towns, volcanoes erupting after decades of inactivity, extreme heat and an early and torturous winter brought on by the lack of sun. Among the natural disasters are some intense life struggles. The most important being survival.
Starting with the cons, I have only one complaint. Miranda is horrendously selfish from beginning to almost the end. It’s normal in a teenager, but I found myself growing furious at her reactions toward the dire situation they were in and how she treated her family. I hope that when teens and kids read this, they are equally upset and know not to behave as such in any life or death situation. There’s probably more I could have been annoyed with, but this one bugged me the most. I felt a lot more compassion for everyone else in the story than Miranda. Surprisingly, she reminded me of the little girl from The Walking Dead who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get over her delusion of the walkers being zombies and not real people. Miranda had this notion that things would go back to normal, though everything was going to shit.
As for pros, Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It really makes you think. While I was busy being agitated by Miranda, I kept imagining how I’d respond if the world changed dramatically in the deadliest way possible. As of this very moment, I don’t believe my family, our country, or our planet is anywhere close to prepared to survive something as drastic as this. It’s kind of like a “fingers crossed and hope this never happens” thing.
Their mother’s resilience through all of this was admirable. I don’t think half the words I can come up to describe her will do her character justice. Miranda is annoyed with her a lot of the time and finds everything unfair, but her mother handles it to the best she can. It makes you marvel at her strength. Even when she’s at her limit.
There’s another thing that’s brought up in the novel that I can’t decide if I find it as a con or a pro. To be honest, it’s a topic not many even like to talk about and I don’t exactly give it much thought myself. Depending on the person you ask, it can be either be called self-sacrifice or suicide. Quite a few of the girls at Miranda’s school, including her best friend, decide to stop eating and begin to physically waste away. It’s nightmarish to even think about children doing this, but I found myself in some awe at their understanding of what was going on. The girls were giving their food to others to help them at their own expense. This is something Miranda doesn’t agree with, but whichever side of the argument you fall on with their actions, I hope it causes you to stop and think about it a little more in depth.
Aside from my frustration with the main character, this book is definitely worth the read. It was on the summer reading list about two or three years ago and I understand why. With our issues in climate change, it’s a good idea for our children to consider the consequences now and come up with ideas as they grow before it’s too late to do anything.
I’ve also heard it may be adapted into a film, so if you’re anything like me, you may want to read it prior to seeing it on the screen. If you’ve already read it and/or have some opposing opinions, don’t hesitate to comment and share.