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Friday, 14 May 2010

Review: Life as we knew it

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.


Tez said...

I read this last year. Glad you liked it! I can't get enough of dystopic-type books.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Awesome review. I've been meaning to read this for ages too.

Have you been affected by the volcanic ash?

Kate said...

Great review. I loved this novel. Made me think about how I would survive a disaster like this for weeks.

Rhiana said...

I probably would have passed this by Becky, but your review makes me want to read it now!

I Want To Read That said...

This is one of my favourite books ever (I even have it on audio so I can listen to it in the car!) so really glad you enjoyed it. Although I liked The Dead and the Gone it didn't have the same magic for me - how are you finding it?

Zoë.Bestel said...

Yes, yes, yes!
Exactly how I felt - It was so exciting, whenever something similair happens now I'm begging my parents to read the book so they are 'prepared' ha ha!
I aslo cannot wait to read 'The Dead and the Gone' there is also another just come out (I think) or is coming out. It's the story of what happens next - How they survive. Aparantly her dad and step mum come with some strangers and Miranda falls in love with one of them, interesting how she can fit in a Love Story right in the middle of casos!

If you truly enjoyed this then you will most certainly enjoy 'Floodland' by Marcus Sedgwick. It's not as, how could I put it, 'thrilling' as Life as We knew it, but it is one of those sad 'end of the world' type of things. Just a word of warning, it is sad at the begining. The main characters name is Zoe and so am I, when the 'sad' thing happend I felt very sad and almost cried for this girl. It might just be me and because we have the same name I connected with her and felt like it was me. But just so you know :-)
Brill Review,
Zoë xoxo

prophecygirl said...

Becky, you've really made me want to read this now. Thanks for such a fantastic review!

Christina/Book Addict said...

Another awesome review, Becky! I, too, have been meaning to read this one. I even have a copy, but it's towards the bottom of my TBR pile. I need to start this one soon- my students LOVE this series and your review has convinced me to move this book higher up on my pile. I love a good dystopia!

Shweta said...

I love this series. I finished the last book a few months back and it is one of those dystopian/apocalyptic series which really fits YA readers. Scared the hell out of me but I kept reading LOL

Carla said...

I have read so many amazing reviews of this book that i'm not quite sure why I have gotten myself a copy yet. I love dystopia as a genre and apocalyptic fiction really resounds with me as a reader, because it's something that is a definite possibility for what may happen in the future. I love the cover too, it's eerie in a way that draws you in. Amazing review

Jill of The O.W.L. said...

LOVED THIS BOOK! and I'm so glad you liked it too! It sticks with you. I would wash dishes and realize that in the book I wouldn't be doing it this simple way. I've got the last book ready to go. I hope you like The Dead and the Gone. It's good but in very different ways.

Sasha said...

Oh, I get really scared when I read books about an apocolypse in the future. That scares me more than ghosts etc. You're review definitely makes it sound like a worthy read, but I don't think I'd like it :S Not sure but fab review :)

Kris (Voracious YAppetite) said...

I loved this book so much that afterwards I had to sit my BF down and tell him all about it, even though he could care less about reading. :) I have to admit, I wasn't as impressed with book 2, but I'm really looking forward to reading book 3.

The Book Bug said...

Brillaint, isn't it? Well so is this review. I remember fondly the first time I read this book. Yes, thats right, I keep reading it over and over again. Unhealthy amounts of times. I think the characters in the Dead and the Gone were a little more irritating, though. Still can;t wait for the third one.

Clover said...

Ooh. I just got a copy of this book recently and I can't wait to read it :)

Josette said...

My interest in this book has been reignited since reading your review of this book! I'm gonna get a copy asap. That's one heck of a review and yeah, I kind of like Tesco too. :)