Dystopian Challenge book review - Life as we Knew it

Friday, February 26, 2010

The first book that I read for
Parajunkee's Dystopian Challenge was Life As We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer.
The book didn't really fit into the Dystopian genre, and was more of a straight up apocalyptic novel, but I enjoyed it anyhow.

About The Book
The novel is written in journal form, and the narrator is a 16 year old girl named Miranda. The first few journal entries focus on things that an average teenage girl would be worried about: school, homework, friends, boys. We learn that she has an obsession with an ice skater from her home town, that she is finding herself at odds with her best friends, and that she's annoyed with all of her teachers for giving out too many homework assignments that are all due on the same day. Everyone is excited about an asteroid that is about to hit the moon, excited because the asteroid is so big that you should be able to see the impact with your naked eye. But something goes wrong. The moon is knocked out of its natural orbit, pushed closer to the earth. And, as you can probably imagine, this causes some serious problems.


Jon was making himself a can of green peas for lunch when all of a sudden he turned to us and said, “How come none of you eat lunch?”

It’s funny. We haven’t in ages, but Jon was always outside with Matt and I guess he figured Matt ate a big breakfast or something. He didn’t know what Mom or I were doing…

I eat every single day. Two months from now, maybe even one month from now, I might eat only every other day.

We’re all alive. We’re all healthy.

These are the good times.

My Review

The Good
Life As We Knew It is a compelling read. The journal format really pulls you into Miranda's head and places you right in the middle of her situation. You know her heart, you see her inner turmoil, and it all feels very honest. There are some heartbreaking moments, and I often ached for this poor girl that had to grow up so quickly, and found myself terrified by the possibility that she would have to watch her family die around her, or starve herself to keep her younger brother alive. Reading this book gave me an urgent desire to stock up my own pantry.

The Bad
The 'science' of the situation calls for a pretty serious suspension of belief. I didn't find it all that difficult to let myself be pulled into the story, but some people might have a problem with it. I was, however, perplexed by the fact that somehow mail was still being delivered. The world is in turmoil, gas is at a premium, people are having a hard time crossing state borders... but somehow they kept the Post Office running. Of course it wasn't exactly reliable, but still.
Another thing that surprised me was that there was never a real portrayal of the violence and rioting that I'm sure would accompany such a massive disaster. The scene at the grocery store was quite a bit tamer than I would have imagined it, and no one ever tried to break into Miranda's house to take her family's food, or anything like that. The only glimpse of violence that we see is some people breaking storefront windows and stealing plywood.

The Ugly

I was put off by the author's portrayal of Christians and Republicans. It irked me that she didn't try to balance her view a bit. Granted, I'm sure that the crazy, fanatical sects of Christianity would be pretty vocal in a time of disaster, but it would have been nice to see some balance.

My Rating
All in all, the book was enjoyable, and I look forward to starting the second one, which I just picked up from the library today.