Life As We Knew It -- Susan Beth Pfeffer


As irrational as it may be, Life As We Knew It scared the crap out of me.  It made me want to stockpile food and hook up the wood stove.  It also made me want to move further inland, just in case.

Miranda's journal begins as a story about a pretty average Pennsylvanian small-town teen life (family, friends, sports and school, fantasies about the prom) but it quickly takes a big turn:

This moon thing is supposed to happen around 9:30 Wednesday night, and Mom was interested enough that we watched the news tonight.  Some big asteroid is going to hit the moon.  They said asteroids hit the moon pretty often, which is how the moon gets craters, but this one is going to be the biggest asteroid ever to hit it and on a clear night you should be able to see the impact when it happens, maybe even with the naked eye but certainly with binoculars.  They made it sound pretty dramatic, but I still don't think it's worth three homework assignments.

As projected, the asteroid hits the moon.  But somehow, the scientists got their calculations wrong:

I know all those astronomers I'd watched an hour earlier on CNN can explain just what happened and how and why and they'll be explaining on CNN tonight and tomorrow and I guess until the next big story happens.  I know I can't explain, because I don't really know what happened and I sure don't know why.

But the moon wasn't a half moon anymore.  It was tilted and wrong and a three-quarter moon and it got larger, way larger, large like a moon rising on the horizon, only it wasn't rising.  It was smack in the middle of the sky, way too big, way too visible.

Very quickly -- within hours -- the change in the moon's orbit causes world-wide destruction.  Earthquakes.  Tsunamis.  Before they completely lose power, they learn that Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard have been completely submerged, as well as most of Rhode Island.  And that's just the beginning.

Miranda's journal becomes a chronicle of her family's attempt at survival. 

It took me a little while to get really engrossed, but once I hit the second third, I couldn't put it down.  This is rare for me -- usually I have more self-control -- but occasionally I skipped ahead a few pages, just to be sure that the characters were still alive, and then I'd skip back.  Survival of the main character is always such an uncertain thing in diary novels. 

The basic premise -- modern teen trying to survive in extreme conditions -- reminded me of How I Live Now, but that was about it.  Rosoff's story was more romantic and epic and her writing was stronger, but Life As We Knew It felt more real, and teens might find it easier to relate to the characters.

Oh -- there are a couple of zingers about the current administration, though no names are named and the comments make sense, character-wise.  Also, the only religious official in the book is a bad-un.  Neither case was a huge story element, but some readers might not approve.   

And I have another quibble, but I'm going to address it in the comments as it's of a spoileriffic nature.  Avoid if you don't want to know how it ends.

Books -- YALeila RoyComment