Friday, March 28, 2008

Life as We Knew It ~ by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title, author, copyright date, and genre?

Life as We Knew It ~ by Susan Beth Pfeffer, 2006, YA fiction

Summarize the book without giving away the ending
We experience a changed world through the journal entries of 16-year-old Miranda, who describes her family's struggle to survive after a meteor hits the moon. Scientists misjudged the impact, which was much worse than expected and caused the moon to move out of its orbit and closer to earth. (See how close the moon appears on the front cover, above.) Since the moon pulls on the earth and regulates our tides, its being closer to earth caused worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

What did you think of the main character?
Miranda (by whom I really mean the author Susan Beth Pfeffer) is a powerful writer! After reading only three chapters, I got online and emailed Dewey, who read the book recently: "Getting online just now, I found this science news: GIANT WAVES BREAK UP CARIBBEAN CORAL. 'Unusually large waves churned by an Atlantic storm system have littered the beaches of Barbados with broken coral in what could be a sign of damage to reefs across the region ... the coral took a heavy pounding ... swells of 15 feet ... flooding ..." I had also received a submission to Weekend Wordsmith from DaisyBug with a poem that mentioned the "crisp white moon." I asked Dewey, "What I want to know ... did an asteroid hit the moon last night? I'm afraid to go outside to find out." Yes, I really really got into the story. Can you tell? I closed the email to Dewey by quoting from page 43 of the book:
Uh-oh. The lights are flickering. I hope we are not about to lose
Which character could you relate to best?
Oh, yeah, the characters. Miranda, because she was the one recording her thoughts and feelings and discoveries. She did some "heroic" things in the book, but I liked that she wrote down what her college-aged brother had said:
One thing Matt did say to me was that no matter what the future is, we're living through a very special time in history. He said that history makes us who we are, but we can make history, also, and that anyone can be a hero, if they just choose to be. (p. 57)
Were there any other especially interesting characters?
Megan was a strong character, but I didn't like her at all. Megan was ostentatiously religious and decided she must "sacrifice" to please God. She was starving herself to death by giving away the meager school lunch provided for students after food became scarce. I felt exactly the way Miranda did during this exchange between the two girls, when Megan says:
"I don't want to be angry at God and seeing you makes me feel that way, just a little bit. So I can't see you again. I have to sacrifice our friendship, because I don't have much left I can sacrifice to prove to God how much I love Him."

"I hate your God," I said. (p. 184)
Were the characters and their problems believable?
Oh, yeah! So much so that I bought a couple of tomato plants to start a container garden, even though I live in a small apartment. Yep, you just never know when the moon may be bumped toward earth and there will be massive food scarcity. What's that? Did I plan a container garden before reading the book? Well, yes, but the book made it seem like an even better idea.

What was the book's central question, and how was it answered?
Could Miranda's family survive this indefinite period of scarcity? Would the world survive? I'm not going to give away the ending! Do you like happy endings? Maybe I should ask, do you like endings that aren't too awful? Go ahead and read it; you're safe.

Did you like the way the book ended?
I was getting an overdose of misery, but I didn't want to stop reading. The book pulled me along and made me feel I was there when "life as we knew it" was lost. Yet the ending felt forced and a bit unlikely. I'm not sure how I would have wrapped it up, though, so I won't complain.

What do you think will be your lasting impression of this book?
It compares in my mind with Jean Hegland's Into the Forest, rated a ten and one of my favorite books. Hegland speculates about what might happen when our unsustainable civilization finally collapses, but the characters in both books must decide what is really important and both books make readers ponder what matters most in the here and now.

How would you rate this book?

UPDATE: Click to read the author's blog Susan Beth Pfeffer: Meteors, Moons, and Me.


Ginnie said...

Hi Bonnie; I have not read this book but wanted to thank you for your interesting comment on my blog "The Power of Smell". I feel honored that you took the time, since you are obviously very busy with all your blogs and book reviews. Have you read "The Book Thief" by Markus Zasak. I loved it.
I intend to devour your blogs when I have more time!

Daisy said...

Thank you for the nod, Bonnie! I am so honored! I may actually pick this book up after reading your review. I need to look around here a bit more... Thank you for sharing!

Ellen D. said...

This book sounds really good. I think I've seen a review for it somewhere. (Have you heard of Bookmarks magazine?) The clincher was when you compared it to Into the Forest. That was an awesome and inventive book that I can still vividly recall the 'feel' of. I am reading a really creepy book right now, One for Sorrow, which has a strong feeling, something like The Lovely Bones.

Linda Jacobs said...

About 10 years ago I took a course on how to write for children and Susan Beth Pfeffer was my long-distance teacher. At that time I read a few of her books and really enjoyed them. I'm delighted to see that she has a new one out. I'd kind of forgotten about her but that is going to change, now.

Your review is so well-written!

Jeane said...

I really really like Hegland's Into the Forest as well. If you're comparing Life As We Knew it to that, I might just have to read it.

Anonymous said...

This book sounds really interesting! I wish I still lived close to a good library.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Good review Bonnie! My friend Angie said there are three books in this series now..... I had better get started :D