Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer

Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It is tense, gripping, page-turning book. Be warned, if you're going to read it, don't make any other plans before you begin !

A meteor is going to impact with the moon, and 16 year old Miranda, like the rest of her family and most of her neighbours in rural Pennsylvania, is intending to watch it from the front garden of her house. But the impact is far more serious than was predicted and the moon is knocked closer to the Earth, which sets off a chain of horrific natural disasters: massive tsunamis, earthquakes where there aren't usually earthquakes, then later on, volcanic eruptions that on such a wide scale that the air becomes permanently grey and there's no sunlight or rain. The story is told in the form of Miranda's diary entries and depicts her family's struggle to survive in a world where food, warmth, and good health can disappear in the blink of an eye. Thanks to frantic preparations by her incredibly quick-thinking mother, Miranda's family is in better shape than many as the town's utilities and public services break down, but wild storms bring extremes of temperature, and outbreaks of disease, both familiar (flu) and unfamiliar (West Nile virus) turn the hospital into a dead zone.

Fortunately, in Miranda's journal entries, Pfeffer keeps nearly all of the death and explicit violence offstage, choosing to focus instead on the stresses of spending months huddled together in increasingly confined quarters in an attempt to keep warm, watching the supplies dwindle, and wondering whether there will be any future to make their efforts worthwhile. This is a nail-biting tale that will inevitably be compared to Meg Rosoff's Printz Award-winning book, How I Live Now which I read and reviewed in August. Pfeffer's setup isn't quite as smooth as Rosoff's - after all, why didn't the astronomers predict the possibility of the moon's orbit being altered by the meteor's impact ? But Miranda and her family seem more familiar than Rosoff's characters and somewhat easier to engage with than Rosoff's. This book is filled with events both exhausting and terrifying yet I found it nigh on impossible to put down; indeed, it kept me reading until long past the time I normally switch off the light because I had to know how it ended.

Life As We Knew It is also available from Amazon.com.


Erin said...

The characters and their situations seemed so real to me. I loved the way the main character Miranda seemed to spring to life.

Michele said...

I know what you mean ! I found it far easier to like Pfeffer's characters than Rosoff's...