Book Binge – Life As We Knew It

book bingeLife As We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer is the fourth book I have read from this year’s shortlist for the Sheffield Children’s Book Award*. Despite the fact that Susan Pfeffer is a prolific author with 75 books to her name, this was my first introduction to her work. I was impressed – in fact I’ve already ordered the dead and the gone, which is the companion novel to Life as we knew it.

Life As We Knew It is in the form of diary, written by teenager Miranda. At the start of the book she is an ordinary Pennsylvanian teenager, leading an ordinary life. Her life soon becomes anything but ordinary after a meteor hits the Moon, changing its orbit slightly. This extraordinary event causes havoc on Earth as the change in the gravitational pull of the Moon has devastating consequences. The result is worldwide chaos which leaves Miranda and her family caught up in a desperate struggle to survive.

The book presents a bleak, but not hopeless, vision of an apocalyptic future. The success of the story lies partly in the sheer believability (is that a word?) of both the scenario and the characters. It is the everyday nature of the family’s lives that I found so easy to relate to: they struggle to manage their food and water supplies and to ensure that they have enough fuel to survive through the winter, they learn to cope with the cooking and laundry without gas or electricity. In amongst the difficulties there are positive moments: Miranda socialises with friends, swims at a local pond and celebrates her brother’s birthday.

As the story progresses, the family’s situation becomes increasingly precarious. Do they survive? I’m not telling you, you’ll have to read it for yourself.

To me, this is children’s writing at its best: a book that is written for children, but equally enjoyable for adults. I was so immersed in this book that I didn’t want to put it down. Even once I stopped reading it, I found it hard to stop thinking about the characters.

I can’t wait to start reading the companion book, the dead and the gone, which is set at the same time as Life As We Knew It, but looks at what happens to a 17 year old living in New York.

Susan Pfeffer‘s blog is great.

* This page is currently somewhat out of date. The shortlist of books that we’re reading for the 2008 award is here.

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