Friday, January 15, 2010

Life as We Knew It, Susan Beth Pfeffer

"Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor 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.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all–hope–in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world."

I was really impressed with this book. I don't think I can say anything better than the Book Smugglers did here:

"Miranda’s voice is incredibly clear and honest, allowing a glimpse into a teenage girl whose life has been stripped from her before she even got a chance to live it. The first person point of view is flawless, allowing readers to feel Miranda’s frustration and anger, her resignation, and ultimately the strength of the love she has for her family. I don’t think I have ever read a teenage heroine that comes across as genuinely as Miranda does–her forced growth and maturation is shocking."

A couple of the reviews I've read mention disbelief that Miranda's mom would think to stockpile canned goods, chop firewood all summer, etc. I think being raised in a religion that puts an emphasis on emergency preparedness made that aspect of the story pretty believable to me. I am no survival expert but just having a basic awareness of the topic would get you started in the right direction. And clearly Miranda's mom was quite an enterprising person to begin with.

This book also made me think of a very creepy book that floated around my childhood about the "end of the world" by a self-appointed Mormon Nostradamus type. Seriously, looking back I cannot believe that everyone I know had the book in their house and that it was sold at Deseret Book in the first place. Because the author was clearly insane and clearly the world is still spinning at this point.

Reading Life As We Knew It also made me think about the whole concept of teenagehood. I've always been interested in the "invention of teenagers"; the idea that all the trappings of modern life created a new and false extended childhood. It was interesting to see Miranda's friend Sammi leave with a 40 something year old man as a 17 year old girl and no one bat an eye. That age difference and situation would have been completely normal in the 19th century. Leaving school early along with how hard Miranda and her brothers had to physically work to keep their family going were other instances of the reality of life for teenagers without the benefits of technology and industrialization. Without those benefits there was no leisure time, no dating, etc. They had to immediately embrace adult responsibilities. And I know I've seen a social history on this topic somewhere. I'll have to investigate.

I cannot wait for This World We Live In to come out in March. I think I'm going to save The Dead and the Gone to read right before it comes out so I don't have to live in suspense. This was one of my favorite lines from Life as We Knew It:

"I wondered, and I think we all did, if this would be our last New Year's.

Do people ever realize how precious life is? I know I never did before. There was always time. There was always a future.

Maybe because I don't know anymore if there is a future, I'm grateful for the good things that have happened to me this year.

I never knew I could love as deeply as I do. I never knew I could be so willing to sacrifice things for other people." (p.287)


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