This could actually be the book that breaks you. Susan Beth Pfeffer writes the most incredible tale of survival that will mess with your head and leave you devastated.
Life As We Knew It is the first in the Last Survivors Trilogy, but I have chosen to just review the first, for a simple reason. It was so powerful, so overwhelming, that when I started reading the second book, The Dead and the Gone, I couldn’t finish it. It was too much to relive the fear and horror that the first one incited. Has enough time had passed now? It has been a few years since I first read Life As We Knew It. And no, I still can’t. It is just as provoking and horrifying.
Life As We Knew It is written as 16 year old Miranda’s diary. She lives with her family in a small town in Pennsylvania. Everyone gathers outside one night to witness a lunar phenomenom – a large asteroid is heading for the moon, and it should be visible from earth as it strikes. Asteroid strikes themselves are a common enough occurrence, and astronomers assure the world there is nothing to fear. They are so wrong. The asteroid is denser than predicted, and slams into the moon, shoving it into closer orbit above the earth.
You don’t have to remember your high school science to know that earth’s gravity gets screwed up. Tides rise, earthquakes shake, volcanos errupt. The coastal cities of North America disappear, Australia is gone, Europe devastated. Communications are down. Is the science sound? No idea. Probably not! But it scared the crap out of me anyway.
The moon hovering over the earth is, of course, just the catalyst for the author to explore human relationships and how the strain of survival effects them. And she does an absolutely incredible job of it. Miranda’s family and close friends all react differently to surviving without so many of the modern conveniences we take for granted. Running water. Electricity. Fuel for heating and vehicles. Medical care when disease begins to spread. People leave their homes, searching for safer areas, looking for loved ones they lost contact with the day of the event. There is looting and hoarding and despicable behaviour; there is also generosity and love and acts of heroism.
Miranda’s diary entries when she loses friends, and of the celebration of family at Christmas will leave you close to tears. Pfeffer’s descriptions are vivid and real; her characters jump out of the book and lead you through the story. I think I need to try again with the rest of the trilogy. It seems almost a disservice to Pfeffer’s talent to not read them.
Appropriate for all ages, although I think the older teens may find it more interesting, due to the conflicts and relationship complexities.
Life As We Knew It is published by Harcourt Children’s Press.