Do people ever realize how precious life is? I know I never did before. There was always time. There was always a future.The narrator of this story is sixteen year-old Miranda. She begins to keep a journal one spring, and at first her life is like the life of many other teenagers. She writes about her family, her friends, school, a boy she has a crush on, etc. She tells us that an asteroid is going to hit the moon on May 18th, but nobody is particularly concerned. The hit is supposed to be visible from Earth, so there’s an expectant, almost celebratory atmosphere in Miranda’s neighbourhood. But something goes wrong: the impact brings the moon closer to the earth, and tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic activity follow. Life will never be the same again.
Life as We Knew It is a terrifying book. I said last week that after reading a few chapters before bed I couldn’t fall asleep for hours. Well, apparently I don’t learn, because the following day I did it again. And then I had a nightmare. I dreamed I was part of Miranda’s family. It was winter and we were all in the sun room, and then someone started banging on the door, yelling that they knew we had food and they’d come to take it. We were all completely terrified, and I woke up with my heart pounding.
I hope I’m not making the book sound darker than it actually is, though. I mean, it is dark. First of all because a natural disaster of this kind could indeed happen, and for all our technology (or perhaps because of all our technology), we’re as vulnerable to it as ever. Secondly because stories where people go hungry tend to get to me a lot, and there was a lot of that here. But despite all the darkness, there are a lot of lighter, even humorous, moments. And Miranda writes about everyday concerns as well as life-or-death issues. She’s a little like Anne Frank, who was a young girl like so many others despite her extraordinary circumstances.
I was particularly interested in the family dynamics in this book. Miranda’s parents are divorced. She lives with her mother, her older brother Matt and her little brother Jonny. Take Miranda’s mother, for example. It was thanks to her clear-thinking and determination that the family was able to store food while they still could. But as the story advanced, I wondered at some of the decisions she made. But then again, I can’t even begin to imagine what having to make any decisions at all about certain things must be like. Having to ration your children’s food. Having to wonder who is more likely to survive and make calculations based on that.
I did like the relationships between the three siblings. I liked how despite the many causes for conflict, the family remains close. They’re not exactly a picture-perfect family, but you can tell that they care about one another. And most of the time they respect who the others are as individual people.
Above all, though, I liked Miranda herself. I loved her voice, and I loved the fact that she changes and grows and handles extreme circumstances better than many people would (better than I would, I suspect) while still remaining a believable teenager. She doesn’t give herself enough credit sometimes, but even that seems to be changing when the book ends. Also, Mrs Nesbitt. How cool was Mrs Nesbitt? I loved her almost Granny Weatherwax-ish no-nonsense approach to life and death.
I kept wondering how the story would end, and if the ending could possibly be satisfying. Fortunately, it was. It was hopeful, but there were no magical fixes. Some questions remained unanswered, but that felt right. It’s likely that if the situation were real people would never know certain things. If the answers had been given, it would probably have seemed too auspicious.
Life as We Knew It is an excellent book. I want to get my hands on the companion book, The Dead and the Gone, as soon as possible.
Other Blog Reviews:
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker
Nothing of Importance
An Adventure in Reading
Becky’s Book Reviews
Stuff as Dreams are Made On
Bottle of Shine
Books on the Brain
Stephanie’s Confessions of a Book-a-holic
The Sleepy Reader
A High and Hidden Place
Bookshelves of Doom
Bookfoolery and Babble
It’s All About Books
Hey Lady! Watcha Reading?
Jackets and Covers
Piling on the Books
(Let me know if I missed yours.)