Author: Susan Pfeffer
Release date: This edition 2006 UK
Genre: Dystopia, Apocaylptic Fiction, YA
Target audience: 12+
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
If ever there was a book to make you fear the future, surely it must be Life as we knew it. This is the story of Miranda and her family who live in Pennsylvania. One Spring evening they stand outside with the rest of the people on their street waiting for a great cosmic event. Scientists have calculated that a meteor will crash into the moon and that the great spectacle will be visible from Earth. It will perhaps even be seen by the naked eye. This is not the first time in history that people have watched the sky above them as the universe moves in its never ending pattern. But this time the Scientists miscalulate the outcome of the impact - it is not clear whether it is the size, density, speed of impact, trajectory of the meteor that they misinterpret - suddenly the moon shifs in its orbit and moves closer to the Earth causing devastation to our beloved planet. Life as we knew it is a story of survival against all the odds, about the fragility of human life and about family.
Ever since the volcanic ash incident caused British airspace to close, I've felt the need to read an apocalyptic book. I have been meaning to read Life as we knew it for ages but now seemed like a fitting time so I requested it at the public library. Once I started reading it I really couldn't stop despite the fact that it chilled me to the bone. The night I started reading it I had bad strange dreams. I started reading again as soon as I woke up and declared to hubby that I needed breakfast in bed because I just had to know what happens.
The novel is told as Miranda's diary. She doesn't start the diary because of the catastrophe but it becomes one of her coping mechanisms for dealing with a world that is so suddenly unrecognisable. Her voice is very honest and it is so easy to empathise with her. I loved that she was the middle child because I could recognise some of my less popular personality traits in the things that she said and did. It is hard to imagine everything you do getting ripped away from you. I can't imagine not being able to log on and write a blog post, check my emails, order books from Amazon, watch my favourite TV shows. I now feel justified in stockpiling books because I know I would go insane if I couldn't read my way through an apocalypse. Actually I'm sure apocalypse is the right word for this type of event. It has too many religious connotations. It is more a global meteoric crisis or something but anyway, I would lose my abililty to be rational if I couldn't read.
Through Miranda's diary you learn about her family, how deeply she loves them and how they depend on each other to survive. Miranda's mum is a pillar of strength as are both her brothers. They were all characters that I connected with and I desperately wanted them to find a way to survive.
The plot cranks the tension up and up to the point where you are clenching your fists and your heartrate is off the spectrum. It is a scary book because it shows you how modern society is at the mercy of the natural world. We think we have come such a long way in our understanding of science and our use of technology but have we done this at the expense of losing important skills for survival? I have no idea how to bake bread or grow crops. This book certainly got me thinking about being more self-sufficient and less reliant on Tesco.
I guess that Life as we knew it is not a book for the faint hearted. (I may fit in the category but I could not put it down). The story is frightening and it is riddled with death by starvation, illness, suicide. But it is still a story of hope because people are amazingly resourceful when they have to be. There is so much love in Miranda's family too and a refusal to give up despite the odds being weighed against them. I am simply addicted to this and I cannot wait for my copy of The Dead and the Gone to arrive. I'm not sure a book obsession about the end of life as we know it is a healthy one but I can't help myself. I recommend this to people who love stories of courage in the face of adversity and amazing dystopias.