Pfeffer - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

Life As We Knew It
(The Last Survivors/Life As We Knew It series, Book 1)
Susan Beth Pfeffer
Harcourt
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
****

DESCRIPTION: Not so long ago, Miranda's life was full of the troubles of an average teenager. In high school, her friends seem to be drifting away, one latching onto a succession of loser boyfriends and the other burying herself in religion. Her younger brother's still angry over their parents' divorce, and her older brother's off at college so he can't talk to him about it. Her father's new wife - who, much to Miranda's irritation, is actually a pretty nice woman - wants her to be the godmother for their unborn child. Nobody asked her to the prom, and with all this cluttering her mind her math grades are slipping; she'll never get into a good college without good grades. The only high point was the impact of an asteroid on the moon, which the news and the astronomers declared to be a momentous occasion and should at least be interesting to watch. But it was more than that... much more. For the asteroid's impact jarred the moon into a new orbit, forever altering life on Earth. Tides grow more violent. Tsunamis batter the coasts as storms batter the country. Earthquakes shake the land and volcanoes roar to life. And suddenly, life as she knew it - with electricity and gasoline and telephones and the Internet - becomes a dim memory in the day-to-day struggle for survival.

REVIEW: I wanted a change of pace, so I picked this one up. Written in diary format, Miranda describes both the huge changes in her life and the smaller changes in herself, showing not just how fast civilization can crumble and how quickly mindsets change from "we" to "me," but also how unexpectedly strong humans can become in times of need. Disconcerting as it was to consider how a relatively slight shift in the moon's position could so drastically alter things, the post-impact disasters seemed entirely plausible to me. (But, then, much of what I think I know about such things comes from PBS specials and cable television.) Miranda spends a bit too much time acting like whiny deadweight, but at least she acknowledges this trait. If you're looking for a decent apocalyptic disaster book, I'd recommend this one. I see a sequel/companion novel, The Dead and the Gone, circulating in the library, but have yet to clear enough space in my reading backlog to grab it.

You might also enjoy:
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Douglas Adams, Fiction - The irreverent adventures of ordinary Earthman Arthur Dent, who survives Earth's demolition by hitching a ride with an alien friend on a passing spaceship)
The Remnants series (K. A. Applegate, YA Fiction - Five centuries after a meteor shatters Earth, the survivors aboard a retrofitted space shuttle awaken in an impossible world)
The Tripods: When the Tripods Came (John Christopher, YA Fiction - An English teenager witnesses an alien invasion that strips humanity of its own free will)
The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins, YA Fiction - In a dark future, a girl becomes part of a deadly televised "sport")
Survival 101: The Essential Guide to Saving Your Own Life in a Disaster (Marcus Duke, Nonfiction - A basic guide to surviving without modern conveniences in times of crisis)
Survival Kit: Build a Perfect Bug Out Bag For Any Disaster (Sasha Fields, Nonfiction - Prepare your own emergency survival kit)
Chomp (Carl Hiaasen, YA Fiction - A father-son animal wrangler team deal with an egotistical "survivalist" TV star in the Florida Everglades)
After London or, Wild England (Richard Jeffries, Fiction - After civilization collapses, humanity reverts to brutal feudalism)
The Watchers series (Peter Lerangis, YA Fiction - Six tales of ordinary kids who find themselves in extraordinary situations)
Field Guide to the Apocalypse (Meghann Marco, Nonfiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to surviving and averting a variety of global disasters, based on the sound advice of Hollywood)
The Brian Robeson series (Gary Paulsen, YA Fiction - After his pilot dies and his bush plane crashes, a city boy in the vast Canadian wilderness must learn survival skills from scratch)
Guts (Gary Paulsen, YA Nonfiction - The author of the Brian Robeson series describes the true-life incidents and experiences that shaped Brian's books)
The 2099 series (John Peel, YA Fiction - A teen boy learns that his real identity is tied to a shadow group about to unleash Doomsday on the future)
The Forever Contract (Avery Sawyer, YA Fiction - In a drought-devastated future, permanent virtual reality offers escape, but at a steep cost)
Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 (R. A. Scotti, Nonfiction - The harrowing tale of a disastrous storm attacking the American East Coast)
The Forgotten Arts & Crafts (John Seymour, Nonfiction - An overview of the skills and trades of yesteryear)
Letters of a Woman Homesteader (Elinore Pruitt Stewart, Nonfiction - A woman and her daughter establish a frontier homestead in 1909 Wyoming)
Island in the Sea of Time (S. M. Stirling, Fiction - A strange phenomenon sends 1998 Nantucket Island and a Coast Guard vessel back to the Bronze Age)
Rex Rising (Chrystalla Thoma, YA Fiction - In a dystopian world, parasites twist humans to suit their needs)
The Martian (Andy Weir, Fiction - Left behind after a botched mission, an astronaut must survive on Mars until help can reach him)
The Time Machine (H. G. Wells, Fiction - A 19th-century man travels 800,000 years forward to the twilight of humanity)
Mirror World (Tad Williams, YA? Fiction - Humans become stranded on an alien world, where they are ill-prepared to survive on their own)
The 5th Wave (Rick Yancey, YA Fiction - A teen girl struggles to rescue her kid brother in a world devastated by alien invaders)

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The Dead and the Gone
(The Last Survivors/Life As We Knew It series, Book 2)
Susan Beth Pfeffer
Graphica (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
***+

DESCRIPTION: On a Wednesday night in May, as seventeen-year-old Alex Morales worked at a neighborhood pizza joint in New York City, life on Earth changed forever. A massive meteor struck the moon, altering its orbit and throwing the planet's tides, volcanoes, and climate completely off-kilter. At first, Alex didn't believe the news. He'd spent his entire life trying to be as good as the rich kids at his private Catholic school, determined to someday become the first Puerto Rican-born American president. How could the loving God he prays to take those dreams, his very life, away from him?
When he gets home, he finds it's worse than he thought: his mother was working uptown at the hospital, and his father had flown to a small coastal Puerto Rican town for a family funeral the day before. Neither one has called, and as days go by and the disasters mount he slowly realizes that they probably never will. Now, Alex has to be the man of the house, with two younger sisters to take care of, in a doomed city with dwindling food supplies and sporadic electricity. But how is he supposed to hold his family together when he feels like he's falling apart himself?

REVIEW: Much like her previous book (Life as We Knew It, reviewed above), Pfeffer paints a grim, stark reality in a horrifically altered world. New York City, which always seemed to Alex as eternal, solid, and reliable as a mountain, quickly erodes away in both a figurative and literal sense. I clipped this book a half-star from a Good rating because it took a while to get the story moving, and because I wasn't that impressed with her protagonist, Alex. He is a devout Catholic and very much old-school about the relative roles of men and women, and early on he even goes so far as to hit one of his sisters for disobedience. (He does express regret for having picked up that trait from his beloved Papi, and manages to restrain himself in the future, but it took me a while to forgive him.) Towards the end, the tension has ratcheted up to a fine pitch, as Alex sees possibilities for survival and escape flash temptingly before his eyes only to vanish even as he reaches for them. By then, I was enjoying the ride. Overall, I'd recommend it and its companion.

You might also enjoy:
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Douglas Adams, Fiction - The irreverent adventures of ordinary Earthman Arthur Dent, who survives Earth's demolition by hitching a ride with an alien friend on a passing spaceship)
The Remnants series (K. A. Applegate, YA Fiction - Five centuries after a meteor shatters Earth, the survivors aboard a retrofitted space shuttle awaken in an impossible world)
The Tripods: When the Tripods Came (John Christopher, YA Fiction - An English teenager witnesses an alien invasion that strips humanity of its own free will)
The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins, YA Fiction - In a dark future, a girl becomes part of a deadly televised "sport")
Survival 101: The Essential Guide to Saving Your Own Life in a Disaster (Marcus Duke, Nonfiction - A basic guide to surviving without modern conveniences in times of crisis)
Survival Kit: Build a Perfect Bug Out Bag For Any Disaster (Sasha Fields, Nonfiction - Prepare your own emergency survival kit)
Chomp (Carl Hiaasen, YA Fiction - A father-son animal wrangler team deal with an egotistical "survivalist" TV star in the Florida Everglades)
After London or, Wild England (Richard Jeffries, Fiction - After civilization collapses, humanity reverts to brutal feudalism)
The Watchers series (Peter Lerangis, YA Fiction - Six tales of ordinary kids who find themselves in extraordinary situations)
Field Guide to the Apocalypse (Meghann Marco, Nonfiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to surviving and averting a variety of global disasters, based on the sound advice of Hollywood)
The Brian Robeson series (Gary Paulsen, YA Fiction - After his pilot dies and his bush plane crashes, a city boy in the vast Canadian wilderness must learn survival skills from scratch)
Guts (Gary Paulsen, YA Nonfiction - The author of the Brian Robeson series describes the true-life incidents and experiences that shaped Brian's books)
The 2099 series (John Peel, YA Fiction - A teen boy learns that his real identity is tied to a shadow group about to unleash Doomsday on the future)
The Forever Contract (Avery Sawyer, YA Fiction - In a drought-devastated future, permanent virtual reality offers escape, but at a steep cost)
Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 (R. A. Scotti, Nonfiction - The harrowing tale of a disastrous storm attacking the American East Coast)
The Forgotten Arts & Crafts (John Seymour, Nonfiction - An overview of the skills and trades of yesteryear)
Letters of a Woman Homesteader (Elinore Pruitt Stewart, Nonfiction - A woman and her daughter establish a frontier homestead in 1909 Wyoming)
Island in the Sea of Time (S. M. Stirling, Fiction - A strange phenomenon sends 1998 Nantucket Island and a Coast Guard vessel back to the Bronze Age)
Rex Rising (Chrystalla Thoma, YA Fiction - In a dystopian world, parasites twist humans to suit their needs)
The Martian (Andy Weir, Fiction - Left behind after a botched mission, an astronaut must survive on Mars until help can reach him)
The Time Machine (H. G. Wells, Fiction - A 19th-century man travels 800,000 years forward to the twilight of humanity)
Mirror World (Tad Williams, YA? Fiction - Humans become stranded on an alien world, where they are ill-prepared to survive on their own)
The 5th Wave (Rick Yancey, YA Fiction - A teen girl struggles to rescue her kid brother in a world devastated by alien invaders)

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