Life As We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer

Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books
Pages: 352
Year: 2006
Buy: Paperback
Source: Bought copy

Clearly, watching the superb Melancholia, followed up by reading the imagination-catching The End Specialist and Altered Carbon, has seized hold of my mind and set it on a quest. It culminated this week in reading all three books in Susan Pfeffer’s The Last Survivors series published by Marion Lloyd Books between 2006 and 2010. The three novels are ostensibly aimed at Young Adults but, without doubt, as with all good fiction, the books are ageless in their appeal and execution. The first novel, Life As We Knew It, appears to have been written originally as a standalone novel and, as such, this is a review of this alone. Reading this book undoubtedly whets your appetite for more and so it’s a huge relief that two sequels followed in quick succession. You’ll find those two novels in the next review. But, without doubt, Life As We Knew It deserves to be treated as something else.

One evening in May, crowds gather around barbecues to celebrate a once in a life time event – a meteor is about to pass by the earth. But it doesn’t quite make it – it hits the moon and pushes it just a little off its orbit, resulting in fear in those who watch the moon loom larger as well as an ever-increasing ripple of effects on our planet. In Life As We Knew It we follow events through the eyes and journal of teenager Miranda, who lives with her brothers Matt and Jon and her mother Laura in a quiet town not too far away from NYC. Her father, Hal, has a new wife Lisa and a baby on the way. As the novel opens, Miranda is looking forward to spending a summer month away with her dad. But then the asteroid hits.

Immediate impacts include radio reports of massive tsunamis, wiping out much of the west coast as well as NYC. It’s not long before electricity becomes a rare luxury and days of existence are counted in tins of vegetables.

Immediately, Miranda’s mother provides us with the perfect example of what to do when disaster threatens. She organises her kids in a sophisticated onslaught on shop supplies, for themselves and for their good friend and neighbour Mrs Nesbitt.

The decline in civilisation is as slow as it is relentless. Earthquakes are followed by dormant volcanoes coming alive with a force that turns the skies grey with ash and temperatures plummet. We’re spared the mass carnage of the coasts and cities. Instead, we have a drip by drip loss of everything that Miranda had and hoped for. But far from being depressing, with little news coming in from the outside world, we keep hope alive because we watch events through the extremely likeable and resilient Miranda. She has to grow up and she does. She and her brothers hang on, attending schools and libraries, grabbing fleeting moments of fun, ice-skating on a lake, saving gifts for birthdays, making sunrooms cosy, never giving up, while still keeping something of the teenager in herself, fighting with her brothers, squabbling with her mother, missing her father. Miranda’s voice and spirit make for a wonderful and often very endearing guide, so much so I read Life As We Knew It in a day and I couldn’t buy the sequel fast enough.

Life As We Knew It shows us Miranda’s life for a year after the meteor hits. At the end of the year, very possibly, just like me you’ll be longing to pick up the story.


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