Life As We Knew It
By Susan Beth Pfeffer
My Rating: 4 / 5
Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove. In her journal, Miranda records the events of each desperate day, while she and her family struggle to hold on to their most priceless resource – hope.
Like I said when I reviewed Trapped, I enjoy reading stories about people trying to survive, seeing how the things they’ll do and the lines they’ll cross can change as the situation becomes worse. I also love to imagine myself in these situations, wondering if I could do what these characters do to survive.
The premise of this story really intrigued me: an asteroid slams into the moon, but scientists had miscalculated the density of the asteroid, and everyone was caught off-guard by the climactic disasters that immediately followed as the moon was knocked out of its orbit and sent closer to Earth. There were tsunamis that took out the entire eastern seaboard of the United States, volcanoes erupting all over, brutally freezing temperatures when it should have been summer, and more.
I don’t know about the science of it all, and I don’t care. I don’t read fiction to know what is and is not possible in real life; I read to be entertained, to escape, to, if only briefly, inhabit a world that I never could have imagined on my own.
At the book’s start, Miranda is 16 and more concerned with her friends’ annoying behaviours and wondering if she’ll have a date for the prom than she is with anything else. The asteroid is not something that really interests her, but she gathers with her mom, younger brother Jonny, and their neighbour, Mrs. Nesbitt, to watch it from their street. From the moment it hits the moon, they know something is not right. Miranda’s mom is quick to realize the danger they’re in, and while people try to go on with life as normal, e.g. school, it isn’t long before things begin to fall apart.
Miranda and her family must deal with a shrinking food supply, lack of running water, electricity, and heat, the dangers that other people can pose, and their isolation from others combined with the claustrophobia of living in one room of their home, gathered around a wood stove, when things get really bad.
At its heart, this is a story about Miranda and her family, and what they go through as they try to just survive each day. I really liked Miranda and seeing her grow from a normal, self-centered teenager to someone who will do her best to look after her family. She is petulant at times, but she is only 16. I also really felt for her mom, who I could clearly see was doing all she could not only for her family’s survival, but also for them to try to maintain some sense of normalcy (for example, she urges them to keep up with their education).
Although things get very dark for Miranda and her family, there is also hope. This is the first in a trilogy, and I suspect that, while this book focuses on Miranda’s family, the next in the series, The Dead and the Gone, may explore the wider impacts of the disasters. I will definitely be reading that one!