Posted by: Ms. Matson | June 23, 2009

Life As We Knew It

Life as We Knew It life as we knew it
Susan Beth Pfeffer
Orlando: Harcourt, 2006
Genre: Young Adult fiction, apocalyptic
AR level 4.7

From the front flap:

When Miranda first hears the warnings that a meteor is headed on a collision path with the moon, they just sound like an excuse for extra homework assignments.  But her disbelief turns to fear in a split second as the entire world witnesses a lunar impact that knocks the moon closer in orbit, catastrophically altering the earth’s climate.

Everything else in Miranda’s life fades away as supermarkets run out of food, gas goes up to more than ten dollars a gallon, and school is closed indefinitely.

But what Miranda and her family don’t realize is that the worst is yet to come.

This is a book so engaging that I read it start to finish in five hours.  When I stopped to fix dinner I found myself thinking, I have to ration this food, as if the story had become reality.

Life As We Knew It is the first fiction book I’ve read in a while that I been compelled to jot down thoughts as I was reading.  If it weren’t from the library, I would have written in the book.  The diary format gives the reader intimacy with the situation Miranda and her family are faced with.  Rather than read how the catastrophe affects an entire nation, we are forced to contemplate it on a personal level as we watch a family wither away.  The story presents the issue of whether we are capable of surviving if our modern conveniences are suddenly taken away.  No electricity, no oil, no gas, no phone, no instant communication, no grocers.  Almost total isolation.  More than once I thought of the Donner party.  What must that have been like, to see your loved ones and companions waste away to nothing?

Miranda is an incredibly strong heroine.  She starts as a self-occupied teenager who has a hard time thinking past her immediate desires, wants and needs, and grows into a thoughtful, selfless daughter and sister who understands the gravity of their situation and is willing even to spare her mother the agony of watching her daughter die.

Here are some notes I took during my reading:

  • The author seems to have  a negative view of people with strong religious devotion/convictions.  As of page 164, Pfeffer hasn’t mentions Jesus specifically, but church.  The God she presents the “Christian” as believing in does not seem very merciful.  Inaccurate representation of Christianity.  At the same time, maybe the author hasn’t been shown  an accurate picture.  Makes me think, when we talk about our faith, are we presenting a merciful, grace-giving, forgiving God, or one who strikes the earth with calamity in punishment for sins, with redemption coming through starvation, whose people are only concerned with the hereafter and not the now?
  • I think the jabs at conservatives through FOX news and the “idiot” president from Texas in the book, however brief, were completely unnecessary to the story and added nothing to the plot.  There were only three or four references, but they jolt the reader out of the story and into the real world, or at least the world of 2006, when this was published.  It would have been better if Pfeffer created fictional news networks and such.
  • P180.  I really wonder how this is going to end.  Will there be a resolution?  Will things get better?  One possibility, since this is written in diary format, is that the end will reveal that the diary was found in the distant future by some people who had managed to survive.  Something like Ember, though maybe not in the underground sense.  But the diary found among ruins.

The ending was a bit unsatisfactory and didn’t provide the closure I wanted.   An epilogue would have given better clarity to what happened.  Overall, Life As We Knew It is an excellent read and a book I would like to have sitting on my shelf.   A pity I have to give it back to the library.  I highly recommend it.

* Just checked the Amazon listing to add a link and evidently there is a companion novel called the dead and the gone.  I’m going to request that one from the library now.



  1. My 5th grader read this this year, and she loved it. We didn’t know about the companion novel, so we’ll have to look for it this summer.

  2. Thanks for this excellent review! I’ll have to look this one up!

  3. Thanks for the comments!

  4. […] the library when I learned it was a companion to Life As We Knew It, which I loved (and reviewed here).  Whereas the former explored how a shift in the moon’s orbit affected a family in a small […]

  5. […] 5M4B (Why Not Knot for Fun?)19. 5M4B (Four Wives)20. 5M4B (The Bookends of the Christian Life)21. teachergirl (Life As We Knew It)22. SuziQoregon (The Secret Keeper)23. Suziqoregon (Dark Places)24. Janet (Waking the Dead)25. […]

  6. […] Life as We Knew It and it’s sequel, The Dead and the Gone, by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  They’re both excellent apocalyptic novels for the middle grades.  I don’t think I’ll ever look at the moon in the same way.  I’m anxious for the third book to come out in the spring. […]

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