Life as We Know It
(Last Survivors #1)
by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Audio Book Borrowed From Library
Regina’s Review – 4 Stars – Grade B
Pfeffer writes about the break down of society, government and life as we knew it due to a series of natural disasters. Unlike other apocalypse themed books where the breakdown happens immediately and citizens are on their own from the beginning, Life as We Knew It describes a gradual downturn of society. And in that way, the decline feels more realistic but it is also more frightening. If things were to go wayward in our current modern civilization, I think it would be as painted in this book – in the beginning there would be some mail service, some government services, some infrastructure, on and off electricity and telephone service, some basic routines remaining but eventually those modern amenities of civilization would fade away. That is exactly what happens here, the decline happens but it takes months for it to do so; as Miranda, the narrator of the story says about her family, “We are dying in increments.”
This book does not start out with a bang; it begins slowly. The story unfolds through journal entries by a high school junior named Miranda. She is concerned with her extra curricular activities and fights she has with her friends. She misses her dad as her parents have remarried and he lives in a different city and she misses her older brother who is away at college. Slowly, small changes begin to happen as a consequence of one stunning natural phenomenon. Miranda reports in her journal how her family survives from day to day and what they do to prepare for when things will worse. The little things that happen to the main character, Miranda, illustrate what could happen in a world gone mad with desperate people and a few still in power. People with weapons and people with friends are able to get what they need quicker and easier than people without. Many of the occurrences in this book are not exciting but more day to day – getting food, chopping wood, surviving a blizzard, living through a summer without air condition. In a way, this book is a less hopeful (and completely fictional) modern version of Little House on the Prairie. Through these bits and pieces, the reader is shown the unraveling of a neatly constructed society. It took me a few chapters to be pulled into the story. The style of story telling was not appealing to me at first. Additionally, I listened to the narrated version and while it is well done, it took me about 45 minutes to become accustomed to hearing the narrator read the story; she takes on the persona of a young teenage girl very well. But at first, I thought it was distracting.
One of the details of life that Pfeffer expresses so well are the day to day problems that arise when people are living in close quarters, including personal tensions between people that love each other and are very stressed. Miranda and her mother argue about typical teenage v. mom type things, but gradually the arguments evolve as their lives change. Pfeffer made these arguments real and poignant.
A problem that I had with the book was the lack of information as to how other people in the town were doing and if they were doing well, how did they manage that? It was all a mystery and the author addresses this by saying that people didn’t talk about how much food they had or where they got it. Additionally, the secondary characters were so flat. It could be the method of delivery – journal entries by the main character – but it would have been nice to have the secondary characters, which greatly effected Miranda’s life, more developed.
Ultimately, I thought the book was a decent YA apocalyptic novel about natural disaster. It is a short quick read (or listen). There are other books in this genre (both YA and apocalyptic) that I prefer, but I was riveted and could not turn my iPhone off; I wanted to keep listening to this book. Another book in this genre that addresses this topic really well is Ashfall byMike Mullin. You can check out my review of Ashfall on GoodReads here and AH’s review of Ashfall for the BadAss here. However, I think that Ashfall does it in a more exciting and intense manner. And perhaps, is somewhat more realistic (if an apocalypse book can be realistic). But in the end, if you enjoy young adult books and apocalyptic theme books, then this is worth a read or a listen.
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