BookBrowse Reviews Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

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Life As We Knew It

by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2006, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2008, 360 pages

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A plausible science fiction/coming of age novel for ages 13+

Miranda's diary opens towards the end of her sophomore year at a high school in rural Pennsylvania. The early entries are those of a typical teenager - family fights, prom dates, conversations with friends and just a passing mention of the meteor that's scheduled to hit the moon. On the night, like the rest of her family and neighbors, Miranda sets up her lawn chair to watch the show, and everybody cheers when the impact happens, but the cheers turn to screams as the moon starts to tilt.

The impact pushes the moon off its axis into a closer rotation with the earth causing immediate and massive tsunamis that wipe out millions. Soon after worldwide seismic disturbances cause vast earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. For a few days a sense of normalcy is maintained in Miranda's community - the school sends out notices, the electricity runs intermittently, but before long the structure of society starts to collapse; panic is rife. Miranda's family join others ransacking the local stores for all the supplies they can carry, and soon a devastatingly cold winter closes in brought on by volcanic fallout. Miranda, her two brothers and their mother hunker down to ride it out in the family home; but conditions go from bad to worse and the family are soon faced with tough decisions if they are to survive.

Pfeffer keeps nearly all the death and violence off stage, instead she focuses on the stresses on Miranda and her immediate family as they manage the day-to-day necessities of survival , cutting enough wood to keep themselves warm and rationing the ever decreasing supplies of food, while wondering if there is any point carrying on when they haven't heard sight nor sound from another human in months.

Miranda's diary entries record her changing viewpoint as her perspective shifts from self-centered adolescent angst, through anger and petulance, to eventual resignation in this challenging coming-of-age novel that has drawn comparisons to Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now and The Diary of Anne Frank.

This review was originally published in February 2007, and has been updated for the May 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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