David's Reviews > Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
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Jun 11, 13

bookshelves: young-adult, post-apocalyptic, science-fiction, female-protagonist, survival, teenagers
Read from March 09 to 15, 2011

Imagine Armageddon directed by Catherine Hardwicke instead of Michael Bay. Life As We Knew It is an end-of-the-world scenario told through the eyes of a teenage girl, who writes down everything that happens in amazingly long and detailed diary entries, which become increasingly implausible as she writes multi-page narratives about how she just dragged her entire sick family out of a smoke-filled sunroom while on the verge of starving to death herself.

This is not a bad book -- it's got a voice that will speak to teen readers (though I think that voice sounds more like Mom than that of an actual teenage girl) and it's got moments of drama and a heartwarming hope-will-carry-you-through message. But speaking as someone whose YA reading when I was a teen was more along the lines of Robert Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and (oh, the shame!) Piers Anthony, I found Life As We Knew It to be a rather dumbed-down apocalypse in which the author pulled her punches every time. All the horror is abstracted away; Miranda knows bad things are happening out in the world, but she's never confronted with any real terror-filled moments, and most of her suffering boils down to hunger and boredom.

Miranda's family are the antithesis of Heinlein characters -- where Heinlein's protagonists are omni-competent superheroes who are supposed to teach you that humans can survive anything with enough determination and resourcefulness, Miranda and her family basically sit in their house rationing their hoarded food and hoping someone will show up to turn the power back on and feed them, teaching you that the only hope in a crisis is the government. (If you think with this little rant that I'm some kind of anti-government libertarian, my fondness for Heinlein juveniles notwithstanding, you are so off-base, but the passivity and helplessness of these characters just annoyed me no end.) Pfeffer wanted to make us feel what the end of the world might be like for an ordinary teenager, and in that she succeeded, but quite frankly, an ordinary teenager isn't likely to survive a situation like that.

I gave this book two stars because it annoyed me with the lack of any proactive action and the convenient ending that only reinforced the whole wait-for-help message of the book, but I have to admit that I believed in Miranda as a character, she was pretty sympathetic, and the book is a page-turner that moves right along. I think a younger reader would probably enjoy it a lot more; this is one of those Young Adult novels that just isn't likely to have much appeal for a grown-up who's read any real science fiction.
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Lexie Well said! I got the same feeling also- the "wait until it gets better and help will arrive" feel to it.
Loved your review.


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