01 August 2013

Series Review: The Life As We Knew It Books by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth PfefferLast week I got a surprise book in the mail: the fourth installment in Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It series. Before I sat down to devour the new novel, I decided re-read the entire series via audiobooks. Then I realized I had never written about these books for Beth Fish Reads.

For those of you who haven't yet read the series, here's the basic premise. On a beautiful spring evening, people around the world were gearing up for a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event. A meteor was going to hit the moon, and the impact would be visible from earth. What no one predicted, though, was that the moon would be bumped into a smaller orbit.

The change in the moon's gravitational pull was felt immediately: satellites were knocked out of commission, the tides rose tremendously, islands were submerged, and coastal areas were devastated. Later, volcanic eruptions filled the atmosphere with ash, creating an endless gloom and destroying crops. As food and electricity became scarce, disease and death became common.

The Dead & the Gone by Susan Beth PfefferThe first book in the series, Life As We Knew It, is told through the eyes of fifteen-year-old Miranda Evans, who records daily events in her journal. Through her, we learn how a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania is affected by the natural disaster. Miranda and her brothers' chances for survival depend on hard work, sacrifice, and their mother's smart early preparations.

Like the earlier book, The Dead & the Gone covers the first year after the meteor strike. But Alex Morales, whose parents never returned home that first night, tells a very different story. Hiding out in their basement superintendent's apartment in the Upper West Side of New York, the Morales children must find a way to make the most of their very limited resources. Sheltered by their parents and their strict Catholic upbringing, Alex and his younger sisters have a rough awakening to the ways of the city streets.

This World We Live In continues Miranda's journals and returns us to Pennsylvania, but it also unites the story lines of the first two novels. As the environment continues to deteriorate, making it harder to obtain food and and water, the Evans family will have to make some difficult decisions about their future.

This World We Live In by Susan Beth PfefferThe final book, The Shade of the Moon, will be released August 13. It begins two and a half years after the last installment ends and focuses on Miranda's younger brother, Jon, and his life in what is known as a protected city. The Evans and Morales families have faced many horrors and are no Pollyannas, but they try to maintain some hope for the future and for humanity.

The Life As We Knew It series remains one of my favorite young adult dystopian series. Not only do I love Pfeffer's characters but I find the premise, and the rapidly deteriorating environment, to be scary and gripping. The books make me think about how or if I could cope in similar circumstances. What I love about the series in general is how real it all seems. First, there is no zombie virus or eerie genetic mutations, so the threats and challenges are easy to imagine. Second, we see the changes as they occur, not decades later when governments and politicians have become unrecognizable.

I was also fascinated by the different living situations Pfeffer explores. Miranda's family is upper middle class, educated, and living in a small community. Alex's family, however, is relatively poor and just barely making it in the big city. Thanks to equal parts luck and tragedy, Jon finds himself in a guarded community in which electricity, water, and food are plentiful but where even the smallest mistake is seen as grounds for eviction.

The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth PfefferIn all three places, the rules of survival are different and require different types of intelligence, cunning, and strength. There is no one right way to guarantee survival, and ethics and morals take on completely new dimensions. What would you do to stay alive? How would you keep your family fed?

Susan Beth Pfeffer's series will doubly keep you up at night: first because you'll find it difficult to stop reading the books and second because you'll be haunted by how you'd survive in the aftermath of a global natural disaster. Don't be surprised if you start hoarding canned goods.

A note on the audiobook productions: Life As We Knew It and This World We Live In (both from Listening Library) are narrated by Emily Bauer. Bauer is terrific at projecting Miranda's thoughts and emotions. I love how she is equally at home with Miranda as moody and argumentative at the start of the books and with the teen as hardened and strong as the story progresses. The Dead & the Gone (Listening Library) is read by Robertson Dean. Dean also does a great job conveying both Alex's uncertainties as he suddenly becomes the head of the household and his inner dilemmas as he weighs his principles against the need to protect his sisters. I don't yet know who will be the narrator for The Shade of the Moon.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / Harcourt Children's Books, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013
Life As We Knew It (ISBN-13: 9780152058265), The Dead & the Gone (ISBN-13: 9780152063115), This World We Live In (ISBN-13: 9780547248042), The Shade of the Moon (ISBN-13: 9780547813370)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

9 comments:

hillary roberts 8/1/13, 6:46 AM  

I read the first book when it first came out. I loved it, and I had no idea it was a series until I read your post. Now I will have to get the rest of the books. They sound just as good as the first one.

rhapsodyinbooks 8/1/13, 7:13 AM  

I also love thinking about what I would do. After we read these, Ti and I each made up survival kits - LOL

Sandy Nawrot 8/1/13, 8:52 AM  

I loved this series as well, but I don't remember appreciating that there was a fourth book! I loved the characters, and I loved the fact that you didn't have to stretch your imagination too much to buy into the premise. I know some were questioning the physics, but it sounded plausible to me!

bermudaonion 8/1/13, 11:25 AM  

I bet my sister would love this series!

Too Fond 8/1/13, 12:43 PM  

I read this series recently and didn't know there was a fourth one coming out. I loved the premise but have to admit I wasn't crazy about them. I had a really hard time with the characters (particularly Miranda) as well as the sexism and religious overtones. Still, it's hard for me to completely give up on a series--I may have to read the newest one anyway and hope that some of the issues I had are resolved.

Carrie 8/1/13, 5:48 PM  

I didn't know there was a fourth book coming out - I thought the series was over! I will definitely have to do a reread before reading book four - it's been too long.

Nise' 8/1/13, 8:46 PM  

I've had the first book home from the library, but never got to it. Guess I need to get it back.

Jenn's Bookshelves 8/2/13, 11:52 AM  

Oooh! I cannot wait to get my hands on the 4th book. I LOVED this series!

Daryl 8/5/13, 10:00 AM  

i read the first book and didnt love it .. i cant put my finger on exactly why but i think a lot had to do with the narrator's voice ... by that i mean Miranda ...

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