On My Bookshelf: Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

February 08, 2016

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is book one in a series about life in a very realistic post-apocalyptic world. An asteroid has knocked the moon closer to Earth causing all sorts of natural disasters. Miranda, the main character, and her family must make difficult choices about survival with no end to the disaster in sight. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: I guess I always felt even if the world came to an end, McDonald’s still would be open.

High school sophomore Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the moon closer to Earth, like "one marble hits another." The result is catastrophic. How can her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis are wiping out the coasts, earthquakes are rocking the continents, and volcanic ash is blocking out the sun? As August turns dark and wintery in northeastern Pennsylvania, 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 a year’s worth of journal entries, this heart-pounding story chronicles Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world. An extraordinary series debut! Susan Beth Pfeffer has written three companion novels to Life As We Knew It, including The Dead and the Gone, This World We Live In, and The Shade of the Moon.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is book one in a series about life in a very realistic post-apocalyptic world. An asteroid has knocked the moon closer to Earth causing all sorts of natural disasters. Miranda, the main character, and her family must make difficult choices about survival with no end to the disaster in sight. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.Why I liked it: Life As We Knew It is set in my home state, Pennsylvania, so the mentions of places familiar to me helped draw me in right away. Like The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the setting is a post-apocalyptic one, the shift of the moon has environmental repercussions, but the world is otherwise normal; no vampires or any other mythical creatures in this one. Miranda's family struggles to maintain their physical and mental health without knowing when the disaster will end. I don't know enough about science and space to know if this kind of event could really happen or if its effects are accurately portrayed, but the author certainly made it all believable. During reading, I often found myself thinking what I would do and impressed by the wherewithal of Miranda's family, particularly her mother. Actions that Miranda thinks are slightly crazy at the start of the novel turn out to be what helps her family hold out until help arrives. I am looking forward to reading the other novels in this series.

Classroom application: Life as We Knew It is definitely worth adding to your classroom library for middle or high school students. The fact that it is part of a series is also a plus; if you can get a reluctant reader to read one, he/she will want to read them all. This novel would be a perfect choice for literature circles themed around natural disasters, real or imagined.

Cross-disciplinary connections could also be made with science while reading Life As We Knew It. Students could research the effects of the moon on Earth (tides, plate-tectonics, stability on its axis, etc.) and how being closer to or farther from the moon would impact life on Earth. Other possible research topics would be natural disasters throughout history and the asteroids/meteors that have actually landed on Earth.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Life as We Knew It for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.


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