Thursday, February 19, 2009

Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Harcourt, 2008 (originally published 2006)
337 pages

First, let me say that this is one of the scariest books I've ever read. Not stupid scary, but realistic scary. It's scary because . . . it really could happen.

Miranda is an ordinary, average teenager living in rural Pennsylvania, just outside of a small town. As the book opens, she learns that her Dad's new wife is pregnant. This is a difficult concept for her (apparently her parents haven't been divorced that long, wounds are still fresh, and her Dad has already moved to another state and remarried) but she tries to be grown-up about it, which makes her Dad and stepmother very pleased. Miranda writes about her feelings and her life in diary form, and just a week or so after the opening, everyone is excited about an astronomical event: an asteroid is due to hit the moon.

However, no one could have predicted that the impact of the asteroid would be powerful enough to shift the moon from its axis, bringing it much closer to the earth. Suddenly, there is a global emergency: tsunamis and tidal waves submerge entire countries and states; hundreds of millions of people are killed and more are homeless. Governments collapse. Weird things happen. 

But this is only the beginning. Soon, earthquakes begin occurring in unusual places. Long-dormant volcanoes in places no one even knew their were dormant volcanoes begin erupting. This changes the weather - first frost comes in August instead of October, which kills crops that would have otherwise been used as food. The winter is longer, colder, and darker than usual.

Quick thinking and planning by Miranda's mom in the beginning of the catastrophe ensured that they had enough food and supplies . . . at least in the beginning. But as winter encroaches, one disaster leads to another. Will Miranda and her family survive? Will she ever see her new baby brother or sister? Will life ever get back to normal? You'll have to read the book to find out.

This is a Young Adult novel, but adults who like disaster stories will enjoy it. It certainly opens the doors to some interesting "what if" conversations. It might prompt some to stock up on canned goods. And it certainly makes you think twice about wanting that oceanfront property.


Rating: 4 stars.