Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

life as we knew it coverMiranda is having an uneventful end to her sophomore year of high school, completing homework, thinking about boys, and making summer plans with friends. She is even complaining about all the extra homework she is receiving due to the moon event on the way. The moon is about to be hit by an asteroid, and though astronomers don’t think this will cause any problems, they do think it will be quite a spectacle. Unfortunately, the astronomers totally miscalculated and the asteroid blows a huge chunk out of the moon and moves it much closer to Earth, close enough so Miranda can see the craters in daylight. The Earth goes crazy. Tides change, tsunamis ravage every coastline on the planet, volcanoes spring up where they have never existed before. People believe the end of the world is coming–and they may not be wrong.

This story is told completely through Miranda’s diary entries. This was both super cool, and at times annoying. First of all, it was a nice blast from the past for me personally. When I was in grade school, I read and owned (still own, actually) almost every single book in the Dear America series, which started me on my love of literature, and also my love of history. I hadn’t read a story told in journal entires in ages. It was an interesting perspective. The problems with the journal entry style was the entire thing was written like a 16-year-old wrote it. Which made sense, because it was a 16-year-old’s journal, but it also took some getting used to. You also had to suspend disbelief a bit when it came to her remembering and documenting long detailed conversations. That didn’t sound like a typical journal entry to me, but it was the only way to tell the story so it worked.

I liked the relationships between Miranda and the other characters, her mother, her older brother Matt, her younger brother Johnny, elderly neighbor Mrs. Nesbitt, and her best friends Sammi and Megan. The mother-daughter fights between Miranda and her mother were especially spectacular, and reminded me of a typical teenager. Even when the world is ending, teenage girls still manage to hate and love their mothers at the same time. I actually thought Miranda’s mother was a pretty amazing character in her own right. Though sometimes she did seem a little crazy, she also thought ahead and kept her family eating and warm when many others were starving and cold.

Several reviews of this book that I read on Goodreads complained about the science. For a start, let’s just all agree that with today’s technology, NASA/astronomers/people-whose-job-it-is-to-worry-about-asteroids would never miscalculate to the point where they would not realize the asteroid was big enough to knock the moon out of orbit. In order to knock the moon out of orbit, the asteroid would need to be the same size or larger than the moon itself, which would be extremely hard to miss. So let’s all just move past that. Now, some casual googling (and I do mean casual, I spent about 5 minutes on it) does tell us that the moon being closer to Earth would cause some major changes, like tides and tsunamis that would take out many coastal cities, New York being mentioned quite a few times. (A few sarcastic astronomers also noted that werewolves would only be a problem on half the planet…ha!) So that is completely correct. I wasn’t able to find out as much about the moon causing earthquakes or volcanoes, but then it is a work of fiction, and you know going into these sorts of books that you’re going to need at least SOME suspension of disbelief. So IMHO, I think the people who were so bothered, some to the point of seeming personally offended, by the science need to just calm down.

Overall I thought this was a good read, even with the occasional not-quite-believable moments. It was a new and interesting take on the end of the world. Well, I should say the way Miranda and her family survived was different–staying in one place and not joining a group or worrying about other people. Lucky for me, my local library has the next two books in the series so I can read them right away, and don’t have to wait in suspense. The reviews should be coming soon too!

Happy reading,

-Branwen

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