- Life As We Knew It
- The Dead and the Gone (The Last Survivors, Book 2)
- This World We Live In (The Last Survivors, Book 3)
- The Shade of the Moon: Life As We Knew It Series, Book 4
I’ve noticed that the trend in many of the young adult science fiction books in recent years has been to tell stories about a post apocalyptic world. Some are clearly propagandistic with underlying messages, something like: We’d better stop global warming or we’ll all drown or be lucky to live as well as the book’s characters.
What makes Susan Beth Pfeffer’s series different is that, after the disaster happens, we see the characters trying to get by with their ordinary lives. We follow them day to day through severe decline and collapse in the space of a little more than a year.
In Life As We Knew It, an asteroid smashes into the moon, knocking it closer to the earth. This sets off massive tidal waves, earthquakes, and eventually a volcano. Ash clouds block out the sun and cause crop failures, food shortages, widespread diseases, and millions of deaths.
But the characters in all of the books experience the consequences or fallout from these catastrophes. Miranda describes events in diary form in Life As We Knew It and This World We Live In. She lives with her family near a small town in Pennsylvania. The Dead and the Gone chronicles events by date, but follows Alex as he and his sisters cope with the collapse in New York City.
The events of The Dead and the Gone take place in the same time frame as the first book, but less attention is given to the asteroid crashing into the moon. It’s the backdrop to what takes place as the big city slowly dies. Fate brings Miranda and Alex together in This World We Live In. The Shade of the Moon takes place two years later with a focus on John, Miranda’s brother.
There are no high tech solutions, which is as it should be if the stories are to be believable. Yet each book ends on a tantilizingly hopeful note.
Life As We Knew It is my personal favorite. The diary format works well for us to see Miranda as a typical teenage girl who is forced to face the new reality. She and her family must make difficult choices as normal things like school and work become a thing of the past.
All of the books picture what might happen when stockpiled food runs out. There’s still just enough governmental structure left to implement a meager and rather unreliable food distribution program. But it’s barely enough to hold back starvation. Electricity is rarely available, if at all. Then a rigid class structure develops as life moves forward.
In The Dead and the Gone we’re not told with certainty what happened to Alex’s parents, but they’re gone as the story begins. To survive in New York City, he learns to go against his Catholic upbringing and loot dead bodies for things he can trade for food.
Then his questionable benefactor dies in a flu outbreak. This forces Alex to move on with his remaining younger sister. They become part of a roaming band that includes Miranda’s estranged father, his second wife and their new baby.
Whether or not you think the situations presented in these stories are realistic, you’ll find these books thought provoking. You’ll get caught up in the lives of the characters and will want to know what happens next. I predict you’ll read all four books.
These would be great stories for your teenage children to read. It could result in some needed discussions about preparedness.
While the moon hasn’t been bumped closer to the earth, major disasters are causing slow collapse and decline in our world right now. Think of…
- The BP Gulf Oil spew
- The earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns in Japan
- Wild weather swings that cause extraordinary flooding, hurricanes and winter storms
We may be reluctant to admit it, but our lives have changed. We’re no longer able to live the way we’ve been accustomed to. At best things can’t go on as we’ve known them for much longer. Expect more deprivation, perhaps in fits and starts.
How will we survive? Will we cope as well as Miranda, Alex and the others in Susan Beth Pfeffer’s series?
You can order any of the books in the series from Amazon. Simply search for the title of the book you want, or type key words Susan Beth Pfeffer, and a listing for the books she’s written will come up. Click on the title you’re looking for and place your order from the page featuring that book.