Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Book Review: Life As We Knew It

The back cover of this audio book, Life As We Knew It, identifies Susan Beth Pfeffer as the author of more than seventy books for children and young adults, yet somehow I've never read any of her other books. I stumbled upon the third book in this series, the Last Survivors series, and realized that I wanted to read the books in order, so I returned the third book and checked out this audio version of the first book in the series. Having invested in the first book, I'm still not sure whether I will continue with the series.

Told in diary form, Miranda's story is riveting and terrifying. Her world implodes as a meteor collides with the moon and alters its position in the sky. Suddenly, life is no longer the same. The climate is permanently altered. Tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions threaten civilization. Resources become scarce. The daily hum of life is permanently altered as schools and businesses close down. Can Miranda and her family hope to survive this devastating turn of events? Great premise, no?

While the idea was enticing, the execution was less so. It is difficult to write a novel in epistolary form. You have to carefully develop characters and present plot points with a realistic flow. I believe the author did an okay job at this. For the most part, the novel came from a clearly teenage perspective and inserted information gently. But, the world still failed to be entirely realistic.

I believe if these events had really occurred, human nature would kick in. There would be far more chaos and crime than was presented in the novel. If Miranda's family managed to secure a hoard of food for themselves, someone who failed to do so would, in all probability, come and seize the food without thought for law or order. It seemed unrealistic that people would file through the stores purchasing what they needed at the outset of the disaster. Looting would seem inevitable. I wondered how the family could hole up in their house for a year without a single person attempting to unlawfully gain access to their food supply. When a neighbor finally approaches, it is simply with a request for medicine, politely executed. It was like a sanitized version of the end of the world.

My biggest complaint would be with the portrayal of Christian characters in the novel. It is clearly evident that the author is an agnostic with a venom for anyone who might choose to respond to crisis by clinging to faith in God. The main Christian character believes that God wants her to starve as a mark of her dedication to the Lord. She pleads with Miranda to accept Christ while there is still time. She bears a crush for her male minister and blindly follows him, while he accepts the food from his parishioners without concern for their well-being. It was nauseating. Moreover, I found it hard to believe that this supposed polite world, where no one loots or kills to survive, responds in such a favorable manner without any confidence or conscience toward a supreme being.

I desperately wanted to place myself in this alternate reality and entertain the what-ifs of such a situation, but much of it felt unrealistic and incredibly biased against the beliefs I hold dear. The writing was engaging. I never grew tired of the story or bored with it. In my final analysis, I would give the premise five stars but the presentation of the idea only three stars. I'm still not sure whether I will seek out the second book. After endless hopelessness and despair, the conclusion magically provided hope in the form of a government allotment of food supplies. Moreover, I've read that the second book is more a companion book, in that it doesn't move the plot along any further, but simply tells the same story in another location of the United States. Not sure I care enough about the characters to see them through this end-of-the-world-without-God scenario.

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