A little over a year ago during a bout of insomnia, I began browsing my library's ebook selection and came across "Life As We Knew It." This turned ou...moreA little over a year ago during a bout of insomnia, I began browsing my library's ebook selection and came across "Life As We Knew It." This turned out to be the worst decision I could have made for my insomnia because the next thing I knew it was 7am and I had no intention of putting my Kindle down.
In a period where fiction is inundated with dystopian and/or apocalyptic stories, Life As We Knew It managed to be fresh, semi-original and absolutely riveting. In short, thinking it'd be a great show, the whole planet threw a party to watch a meteor slam into the moon. Instead, the moon got knocked out of whack and ended up so close to the Earth that the planet went into unimaginable chaos. Get in.
The narrator, Miranda, took us through her family's experience of the end of the world in a way that made us adore her, admire her, and believe her because the story was the perfect combination of terror, heartbreak, mirth and hope. When I finished the book, I was thrilled to discover books 2 & 3 were already published. That would prove to be the last time I would be thrilled by The Last Survivors series.
I had no problem with the sequels being told from other perspectives, especially since their stories eventually intertwined a la Dickens. But where I cared about and hung onto every word of the first book, by the third installment I honestly couldn't have cared less what happened to any of these people. The family we fell in love with in book 1 turn into shells of the dynamic characters they once were not because surviving the end of the world turned them into shells, but because the author seems to have lost her spark.
I suspect she didn't identify with or invest as much of herself into the characters who join the series in the sequels and this accounts for why it's impossible for the readers to do so. And in doing that, she doesn't seem to be able to go back to caring about her original characters either.
However, despite all my goings on, I'm not reviewing the previous books. I'm reviewing The Shade of the Moon and it isn't pretty. My anticipation for this book was higher than it should have been, but a part of me still had hope that this series could return to its initial greatness. I think that's also why it took me as long as it did to angrily toss this book across the room. Like Miranda once did, I still had hope.
Miranda's little brother Jon (the boy previously known as the almost likeable Jonny), takes the reins in this installment. Whereas he was once a spoiled, oblivious kid obsessed with baseball, he has now turned into an entitled, ignorant brute. They all live in a caste society that has enslaved the lower classes and is often terrorized by roves of young hooligans reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange. Jonny is one of those hooligans, but he gets to be because he's more or less part of the elite. They can do whatever they want. The new American society thrives on indentured servitude that aims to eventually work most of those that survived the apocalypse to their grave. Why? Because there are plenty of them and the few elite shouldn't have to share resources with the proletariat.
Jon, his stepmother and half brother are the Haves whilst the rest of the gang are the Have Nots (and Are Actually Dying). While Jon plays soccer and abuses his house staff, the rest of his family toil in slum cities where owning a truck is akin to winning the lottery and any chance for quality of life is nil. They exist, segregated and neglected, simply to keep the elite in comfort.
Jon couldn't care less about his family and all they sacrificed and continue to sacrifice to keep him where he is. He asserts they should be grateful for being allowed to work menial jobs. His later attempts in the book to redeem himself make him seem even more like a spoiled monster. Jon is a malicious jerk whose character has devolved so much that even his maliciousness has no depth. He's just awful. Even Miranda, reduced to a guest star in the book, has lost her depth. She's gone from our beloved layered hero to a deluded slumdog housewife just happy to be pregnant.
One can almost see what the author was trying to do to make this book different. Almost. I can take an unlikeable protagonist. I can take a plight of hope ending in utter despair. And I can take dystopia. What I can't take is the implausible, ill executed way she tried to combine it all.
Shade of the Moon feels like a sloppy afterthought. The execution and writing were so beyond being tolerable that I have had to let this series go before even finishing it. I'll just pretend the meteor also hit the sequels so I can remember the Last Survivors as they deserve and as they could have been.(less)