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Life As We Knew It (2006)

Life As We Knew It (2006)
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3.89 of 5 Votes: 4
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English
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hmh books for young readers
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Life As We Knew It (2006)
Life As We Knew It (2006)

About book: Pfeffer writes about the break down of society, government and life as we know it due to a series of natural disasters. Unlike other apocalypse themed books where the breakdown happens immediately and citizens are on their own from the beginning, Life as We Knew It describes a gradual downturn of society. And in that way, the decline feels more realistic but it is also more frightening. If things were to go wayward in our current modern civilization, I think it would be as painted in this book – in the beginning there would be some mail service, some government services, some infrastructure, on and off electricity and telephone service, some basic routines remaining but eventually those modern amenities of civilization would fade away. That is exactly what happens here, the decline happens but it takes months for it to do so; as Miranda, the narrator of the story says about her family, “We are dying in increments.”This book does not start out with a bang; it begins slowly. The story unfolds through journal entries by a high school junior named Miranda. She is concerned with her extra curricular activities and fights she has with her friends. She misses her dad as her parents have remarried and he lives in a different city and she misses her older brother who is away at college. Slowly, small changes begin to happen as a consequence of one stunning natural phenomenon. Miranda reports in her journal how her family survives from day to day and what they do to prepare for when things will worse. The little things that happen to the main character, Miranda, illustrate what could happen in a world gone mad with desperate people and a few still in power. People with weapons and people with friends are able to get what they need quicker and easier than people without. Many of the occurrences in this book are not exciting but more day to day – getting food, chopping wood, surviving a blizzard, living through a summer without air condition. In a way, this book is a less hopeful (and completely fictional) modern version of Little House on the Prairie. The narrator is able to show, through these bits and pieces, the reader is shown the unraveling of a neatly constructed society. It took me a few chapters to be pulled into the story. The style of story telling was not appealing to me at first. Additionally, I listened to the narrated version and while it is well done, it took me about 45 minutes to become accustomed to hearing the narrator read the story; she takes on the persona of a young teenage girl very well. But at first, I thought it was distracting. One of the details of life that Pfeffer expresses so well are the day to day problems that arise when people are living in close quarters, including personal tensions between people that love each other and are very stressed. Miranda and her mother argue about typical teenage v. mom type things, but gradually the arguments evolve as their lives change. Pfeffer made these arguments real and poignant.A problem that I had with the book was the lack of information as to how other people in the town were doing and if they were doing well, how did they manage that? It was all a mystery and the author addresses this by saying that people didn’t talk about how much food they had or where they got it. Additionally, the secondary characters were so flat. It could be the method of delivery – journal entries by the main character – but it would have been nice to have the secondary characters, which greatly effected Miranda’s life, more developed. Ultimately, I thought the book was a decent YA apocalyptic novel about natural disaster. It is a short quick read (or listen). There are other books in this genre (both YA and apocalyptic) that I prefer, but I was riveted and could not turn my iPhone off; I wanted to keep listening to this book. Another book in this genre that addresses this topic really well is Ashfall by Mike Mullin. However, I think that Ashfall does it in a more exciting and intense manner. And perhaps, is somewhat more realistic (if an apocalypse book can be realistic).

For some odd reason, I've been reading a lot of end of the world as we know it types of books the past couple of weeks. And they've all managed to convince me that should the apocalypse happen, I am not in any way, shape or form prepared to survive for long. Whether this is a good or a bad thing, I haven't quite decided yet. But that said, that thought as well as the sheer bleakness of several of the novels have led to a lot of restless nights, wondering if its time to start hoarding food and stocking up on weapons and ammo.Of the recent round of end of the world as we know it thriller I've read in the past few weeks, "Life As We Knew It" is the most haunting. Miranda is your average 16-year-old girl who looks forward to learning to drive, the prom and her first boyfriend. What's she not pumped up about is the upcoming event when an asteroid will slam into the moon. But that's all anyone can talk about at school and on the night of the big event, Miranda and her family are all staring up at the sky when the events happens.The asteroid hits the moon, shifting its orbit closer to Earth and causing all hell to break loose. Tides shifts, the weather pattern changes and volcanoes begin erupting in places they weren't before. Miranda's mother is on top of things, quickly gathering as much canned food and non-perishable items as she can for their pantry and setting about making sure their home is ready for the long haul without modern conveniences. (You know, silly things like heat, running water and medical supplies). At times, "Life As We Knew It" is a haunting, scary and bleak novel of survival. Told in the form of Miranda's journal, we hear about the frustration in keeping the electricity on for any length of time in the Pennsylvania community that serves as a setting for the novel. There's also an interesting thread about Miranda's new friend who has found religion and her reaction to the events unfolding. One fascinating sequence sees Miranda noticing a line for supplies and delaying getting in line for a few minutes to tell a potential love interest that the line is there. Miranda is later chewed out by her mother for going after the potential boyfriend and not putting her family first. It's an effective moment that underlines the desperation that is being felt by the characters and the chilling ramifications of what the new world order is.And while the novel has its haunting moments, it also has some things that make you scratch your head and go, "Huh?" The biggest is that despite warnings that something catastrophic could happen to the moon when the asteroid hits it, no one does anything to prepare for it beyond baking cookies and pointing telescopes. As we hear about great tidal waves washing out large coastal area and killing millions. It doesn't make a lot of sense that no one might recommend evacuating the area due to larger tides. (Of course, part of this could be that Susan Beth Pfieffer's unnamed president is a thinly veiled stand in for George W. Bush and she could be making some type of political statement). If you're looking for a book that will fill you with hope about the human spirit and its will to survive, you probably won't find that here either. This one is bleak, folks. And that's even before volcanoes begin erupting and surrounding the planet with a thick cloud of ash, dashing hopes for harvesting crops and making the food situation that much more bleak."Life as We Knew It" has garnered some reviews and for the sheer world-building power and haunting nature of the story, Pfieffer is to be commended. However, there are still a few flaws to the story that take it from what could be a great book to just a pretty good one.
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Reviews
Stacey (prettybooks)
I warn you, this is going to make me sound a little odd, if not insane: I read this book in bed, on the way to work, whenever I had free time. I’d be walking along the road thinking about how it’s probably good that someone shared their lunch with me today because we need to save food. And it’s really grey today. Damn those volcanic ash clouds blocking the sun. I imagined all the food we’d stock up on. What would be like to bring back cars full of tinned and jarred food? I need to remember to stock up on chocolate.And then I’d snap out of it (“Wait. What?”). I felt so completely absorbed in this novel that I actually felt like it was happening to me. It is told in diary form, which reminded me of first-hand accounts that they show on the news when there’s some sort of catastrophe, like with the recent tsunami disaster in Japan. These accounts make you understand what’s happening to different groups of people without being there. That’s what was happening with me.The story is very simply told (which I found realistic as 16-year-olds’ diaries often aren’t literary masterpieces), and it won’t convert you if you dislike young-adult literature, but I think this is why I felt more engaged with it. It is very different from adult post-apocalyptic fiction, such as The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It is less brutal and less harrowing, but that’s probably why I could relate to it more. I was so disengaged with the events happening in The Road, which meant that it had less of an impact on me, whereas Life As We Knew is about a family struggling to cope after a meteor crashes into the moon, causing the orbit to be altered. Civilisation isn’t wiped out completely but it forces people to adapt very quickly to a utterly different way of daily living. The family is only able to find out what’s happening in the rest of the world (many, many deaths, famine, volcanic eruptions, flooding) through rare radio broadcasts. Mostly, it’s just Miranda’s thoughts and her account of life with her mother and her two brothers, confined to their home, wondering if they’re going to live or die.I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can see why it has received so much praise. I’m unsure as to whether I’ll read the next two books, The Dead and the Gone and This World We Live In, as the reviews are pretty bad. But we’ll see. I’m now really excited about the prospect of reading more YA post-apocalyptic novels such as America Pacifica and Ashes, Ashes. Hooray! Another genre to love. Dystopian or Not Dystopian? Not DystopianI also reviewed this book over on Pretty Books.
Tatiana
"Life as We Knew It" is a teen book version of disaster movies such as "Armageddon," "2012," and "The Day After Tomorrow" told from a 16-year old girl's POV. Basically, you have a natural cataclysm that affects the entire planet and you follow a girl and her family through their day-to-day struggles to survive the aftermath. The book is compelling in many ways. You find yourself imagining what you would do in Miranda’ situation. Like many have said in the reviews before me, you feel an urge to get ready for such a disaster and stock up on canned food and fuel. What is disappointing about this book however, is the flatness of the narration. Call me naive, but I expect a high point, some kind of conflict, climax if you wish, in every book I read. This book is rather underwhelming in that respect. There is rarely any excitement or drama. There is no intensity or build-up, and thus the long-awaited resolution fails to touch you.Another bothersome thing is the author's too obvious political views and opinions of religion. While I share Pfeffer's views, I think she should have been a little more subtle about them, after all it's a book for kids. Overall, an engrossing but monotonous book. I enjoyed listening to it but I am not sure if I want to read the sequel.Reading challenge: #1 - L.
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Me for TeensReadToo.comIf you're looking for one of the best books of 2006, then look no further than Susan Beth Pfeffer's LIFE AS WE KNEW IT. A wonderful tale of family love, loss, and survival, this is one story that will stay with you long after you've turned the last page. There have been lots of changes in sixteen-year-old Miranda's life recently. Her older brother, Matt, is away at college. Her mom is still adjusting to being a divorced parent. Her younger brother, Jonny, is obsessed with baseball. And her dad and his new wife, Lisa, are expecting a baby. Dealing with all of that has been quite stressful, but Miranda's been thinking about getting back into ice-skating, and she's spending plenty of time mooning over her current hero/crush, Olympic-hopeful Brandon Erlich, a hometown hero. Miranda's also excited about the meteor that's headed towards the Moon. Some scientists predict a minor collision; teachers predict plenty of extra homework dealing with the subjects of both Moon and meteors. For Miranda and her family, and for millions of others around the world, it simply sounds like a cool event you'll get to watch from your front yard through a pair of binoculars. What happens on that fateful night is something no one expected. The meteor does, in fact, collide with the Moon. However, the impact was stronger than anyone had previously thought possible, and immediately, all throughout planet Earth, the effects of that collision begin to be felt. Tides, which are controlled by the Moon, become erratic, causing deadly tidal waves. Fissures in the Earth's crust crack, causing earthquakes worldwide, even in places where no earthquakes had ever occurred before. Within twenty-four hours, it becomes apparent that thousands upon thousands of people have died, and that, with the Moon out of its normal orbit, many more deaths are sure to follow. This may sound like a depressing story, but in fact it's a story about hope and survival. LIFE AS WE KNEW IT follows Miranda and her family through nearly a year after the meteor's collision with the Moon, and all of the events that come after it--the power outages, the food shortages, the weather changes, and the loss of human contact. As Miranda and her family come to grips with this new way of living, their bodies and spirits will be tested more than they've ever been before. But this is ultimately a story about learning to survive with what you've got, and never taking what you have for granted. A wonderful, inspiring story, LIFE AS WE KNEW IT is one you'll want to read more than once.
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