Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It scared the hell out of me. I am woefully unprepared for a natural disaster. Do you have bottled water just sitting around in case our water is compromised? How about canned food, do you have some disgusting canned green beans hidden behind your stashes of cheap Easter candy? And how are you going to heat your house when a simple flick of the switch won’t work anymore? What about tampons, ladies? Do you have enough to last you a year? Or batteries for flashlights? Or aspirin? I swear to god Pfeffer is going to turn me into a hoarder.
What scared me so much was Pfeffer’s description of what Miranda and her family go through when a natural disaster threatens our world. A meteor hits the moon, pushing it closer to Earth. As you know the moon affects the tides, so the Earth is a disaster. Tidal waves, tsunamis, flooding, earthquakes, and mass panic, all while the moon watches over us, closer than ever.
The story is told through Miranda’s journal, and there are such great descriptions of how her mom has them stash food, wood, clothing, medicine, batteries, etc. The trip they take to the grocery store, where panic has already set in, is what started scaring me and it never really went away. I wish I had Miranda’s mother because I would die so quickly in a natural disaster.
Miranda’s journal is a quick, compelling read highlighting the fall of society, the things people do to survive, and the pleasure they take in things we take for granted, like hot food. It all felt real and completely unnerving.
But I wouldn’t call this the best book in the world. The terror I felt with the natural disaster is real and would grab any reader, but Miranda, the journal’s author, is so damn boring. She’s vanilla, monotonous, and weak. Her mother is so much more interesting and I would’ve loved to read this from her perspective, but since it’s a young adult novel I understand why it’s Miranda’s story. But there isn’t much of a story with her. She reports on everything she sees and hears, but she doesn’t really seem to do much of anything. I think the book is interesting, but I can’t highly recommend it because sometimes I was really bored, and the moon causing natural disasters should be anything but boring.
This is the first book in a series called The Last Survivors, and I hear that the next book doesn’t include Miranda at all but shows the survival of another family from a different part of the world. I’m hoping the narrator is more interesting and that we see more of the seedy, disgusting things people do to survive.
I'm an avid reader and librarian in the Twin Cities who loves to read almost everything but mysteries. If someone gets killed in the first chapter and a detective has to figure out who did it, that's not for me. My recent favorite obsessions are post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. If you have any suggestions, shout them out.
See all posts by LeAnn Suchy
Minnesota Reads is a book review blog written by, well, Minnesota readers. It all started back in 2008 because there was no comprehensive Twin Cities Literary Events Calendar. We fixed that. Since nobody wanted to look at a calendar all the time, we added book reviews. If you like to talk about books, you can review with us too! Contact us to learn more.