Review: Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life as We Knew It by 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.

Title: Life as We Knew It
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publication date: October 1, 2006

I resisted reading Life as We Knew It for a long time because I related it to How I Live Now, a book that was both fascinating and horrible. I don’t know why, but I can only guess that maybe I learned about the two books at the same time. Life as We Knew It has been lingering on my TBR for years, though, and I finally came across it again at on library’s ebook collection when I was bored with the book I was reading. I somewhat hesitatingly downloaded it and absolutely flew through it.


Life as We Knew It has everything I could ask for in a dystopian book. So many of these books just get rid of the parents and siblings so the teen is left alone to struggle and survive. Not Life as We Knew It. Sure, her parents are divorced and her father lives in another city, but she has her mom AND her brothers. Her father’s physical absence is a constant in her life before the incident with the moon.

The best thing about Life as We Knew It is that it’s absolutely believable that it could happen. Everything is so realistic. People really try to go live as normal, until it gets to the point where they realize that things may never be normal, never be okay, again. One of Miranda’s brothers even goes away to baseball camp, and the town attempts to keep regular services like school, the post office, and the library open for as long as it can.

The grocery store scene, in which Miranda’s mother is very organized and makes sure they get as much of all the necessities as they can is one of my favorites. I felt like I should be taking notes on what to buy first and what to skip over and get later if there’s still anything left. I love that she even included supplies for their cat. (And later, as things got very bad, I wondered why they didn’t eat cat food. I mean, it’s not the most appetizing idea and my cat’s food smells disgusting, but if it’s the only thing standing between you and starvation, wouldn’t you at least try to eat it? They don’t seem to run out of cat food and (minor spoiler alert!) the cat is alive at the end of the book. Which maybe wouldn’t happen if they had eaten his food, so it’s a good thing for my emotional well-being that they didn’t.)

The only thing that seemed a little off to me was that there wasn’t any real danger from the outside world. There’s one scene where Miranda spots a group of guys breaking into empty places and is later warned that it’s not safe for her, as a female, to be out and about alone. At first she heeds the warning and even has her brother escort her to school, but in no time she’s back to traipsing all over by herself again — and not just when she’s the only one who can do it. Safety from others would be one of the things I worried about the most and to this family it doesn’t even seem to come up. (Note to self: when stocking up on end-of-the-world supplies, remember guns and ammo.)

Very unusual for me, I didn’t even miss the romance aspect. I do like my romances, even in dystopia. There’s a tiny bit of that but it’s not a big part of the larger story. It truly is Miranda and her family (including an elderly neighbor) against the rest of the surviving world. Any kindness shown to another, even giving just one can of food to someone else, could mean starvation is just that much closer.

I am SO, SO glad I finally gave Life as We Know It a chance. I’ve already started the second book and while at first I was disappointed that it doesn’t continue to follow the story of Miranda and her family, I am just as into it. I can only hope that the rest of the series is just as good as the first book.

five stars



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