Life as We Knew It

by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Paperback, 2008

Call number




HMH Books for Young Readers (2008), Edition: 1, 352 pages


Through journal entries sixteen-year-old Miranda describes her family's struggle to survive after a meteor hits the moon, causing worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

User reviews

LibraryThing member edspicer
Miranda really wants to get her driver’s license. She thinks about the prom and kissing boys and what she looks like in typical teenage style. Current events? They’re out there. Maybe she notices a detail or two about some meteor heading toward the moon. Compared to her license and the prom,
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however, meteors crashing into the moon do not stand a chance. After the meteor strikes and the moon’s orbit is shifted, the ripple effects are pretty hard for even Miranda to ignore: Earthquakes, tsunamis, massive destruction, no power, dwindling food supplies, and a population becoming increasingly desperate and suspicious. Miranda is forced to turn that switch from child to adult. This is the joy of the book: Miranda’s character slowly evolves and recognizes that survival depends on her brains, her physical strength, and any other advantage she can seize. The strength of the writing is that even as Miranda becomes more aware of her responsibility, she still remains a teen. The book has some minor plot problems at the end, but they pale in comparison to the book’s many strengths, not the least of which is a teen girl responding believably and appropriately in a time of crisis. The setting and the descriptions of even mundane things like the weather are written with flair, perfect for the situation. Readers are transported to this well rendered world. Recommended for middle and high school students.
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LibraryThing member booksandbosox
I became completely engrossed in this novel. Reading it during my lunch break, I started to become legitimately worried about how I would face the freezing cold outside and the lack of supplies in my home. This was certainly a depressing book for the majority of the read - a meteor knocks the moon
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off-kilter, thus changing weather patterns and causing volcano explosions. Told through the journal of one girl, her family's experience is difficult and heart-breaking. Ultimately this novel shows hope for the perseverance of the human spirit. I very much want to read more by this author, including the companion novel.
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LibraryThing member francescadefreitas
When an astronomic event causes disaster on Earth, one family tries to survive in small town Pennsylvania. Miranda, her mother and her older and younger brother have to face shrinking food supplies, freezing temperatures, potential violence - as well as struggling to find a reason to even bother
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trying to survive. In a world where all communication has been shut down, when you don't know if anyone else is alive, is there any reason to keep on living?
I've read similar stories, but always from an adventurer's point of view. This look at how an ordinary family finds the will and the means to survive is a much more personal story. It is easy to get caught up in Miranda's day-to-day life. In the beginning, as she thinks about her skating hero, and fights with her Mom, to the day she is grateful for a few sips of soup. And it never comes across as preachy - the characters are well rounded, and have good days and bad.
I found that as Miranda's world became smaller and smaller, I became more and more paranoid - I was savouring each mouthful of food I took, and anxiously watching the snow outside the window. The shrinking world in this book is described very effectively!
I'd give this to people looking for family drama, or relationship stores - not to hard science fiction fans. This is an emotional piece rather than a technical one.
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LibraryThing member sexy_librarian
If you're not already freaked out about all the 2012 hype, then this book will make you start stocking up on canned and non-perishable items. They book puts forward a world where the moon has been knocked closer to the earth by a comet, and as such tides rise, and weather becomes deadly. Miranda
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and her family struggle to survive in this new, unsafe world, as told by Miranda via diary entries. As such, we see not only the struggles of her family, but the emotional struggles of a teen that has been forced to grow up in an uncertain world.

The book is well written, and hard to not get drawn into. At many points I had to walk away and remind myself that I was Not starving, that the entire world was Not covered in snow and ice (as I read this in March when it was still cold), and make myself a cup of hot chocolate, which seemed very luxurious at the time. The only bad thing is the whiny tone of the main character through almost all of the book. It's not till the very end where she matures enough that she becomes sympathetic.
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LibraryThing member wortklauberlein
"I wonder if I cry whether my tears would be gray," writes 16-year-old Miranda a few months after a meteor has pushed the moon out of orbit with immediate and catastrophic effects to Earth, including tsunamis that destroy the heavily populated coastal areas of the world and volcanos that dust the
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globe in ash.

The science and mechanics may be fuzzy or dead wrong and the ending contrived (hard to believe the town snowmobile hadn't scouted the area for survivors), but the emotions are like a slowly building tidal wave and the writing is spot-on teenager, and often funny. "Men were walking on the moon for the very first time in history and people preferred watching Dr. McCoy say, 'He's dead, Jim,' for the thousandth time." And "I guess I always felt even if the world came to an end, McDonald's would still be open." Plus, how could one dislike a book in which a TV reporter assures viewers that the news has been verified by two sources?

Set in the time of the president from Texas and with that 9/11 coating of gray dust and apocalyptic fear, "Life as We Knew It" is a paean to the ordinary and (this note is hammered rather than struck) to the strength of family.

The obvious political leanings to the portside and the warning against manipulative "religions" may tick off some parents, but perhaps they would be comforted somewhat by Miranda's view of sexual entaglements at age 16: "Let me get my learner's permit first. Then I'll worry about lifetime commitments."

Susan Beth Pfeffer has written a "companion" novel in the third person about the same event but set in New York City and focused on a teenage boy. I'm not sure I want to traverse this bleak landscape again anytime soon.
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LibraryThing member eduscapes
I've always been a fan of near-future disaster books, so when a friend recommended Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer I bought it immediately. When I began reading and realized that it was in diary form, I was hooked. I was engrossed by the idea of how I would prepare for and live through a
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disaster. At times, I was frustrated by Miranda's decisions and actions. I had to remind myself that she wasn't me. She was simply a character in a book. I caught myself stopping and thinking things like "what would I buy if I only had a few minutes in the store" and "would I go school or stay at home." I got caught up in small things like how I would use batteries. If you're looking for a thought-provoking book that will get young people talking, Life As We Knew It would be a great choice.
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LibraryThing member runner_roader
A story about a teenage girl, Miranda, who along with the world witnesses a once in a life-time event, a meteor striking the moon. But the meteor not only hits the moon, but pushes it off kilter leading to global natural disasters.

The beginning part of this book that I thought was a great example
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of setting took place in the grocery store. The rain came down adding to the chaos and confusion that everyone felt at the grocery store. The people getting into fist fights over shopping carts. The all for me attitude took over and I could see the store as it is during the after-Thanksgiving sales (I do brave this annual event for the past 10 years. I no longer wait right when the doors open, but still go early enough to see the craze in many people’s faces). The difference with this story is the cash only and $100 cart-fulls. The shelves becoming bare with “broken eggs on the floor, and spilled liquids,” (p 38) and the desperation everyone expressed by pushing through the store to get what they thought might necessary. This part of the story actually scared me to a point. I realized that if there is such a disaster, my family is not prepared and a raid to the store with young children would be chaotic not to mention the banks just to get cash. I liked how Susan Pfeffer described this scene because I believe that an event of such devastation and confusion could cause people to behave in unacceptable ways.

This section of the story describes the electricity black outs and how Miranda’s family must work quickly when the power returns since it is unknown how long it’ll stay on. The house and the school are the main locations that everyone is during the springtime. The difficulty however, is the increase in gas prices and the lack of food. With both scarce, the dark school must close early. Time passes and we see more sadness and survival of the fittest (and well supplied).

Written in the first person narrative in a diary format, Susan Pfeffer definitely did an amazing job creating this fantasy. The characters are portrayed as any typical family now a day. We have the single mother, trying to date but also manage and raise three children; the father who remarried and is expecting another child; and three children trying to struggle through adolescence. I can not pull out any nonsense from this story. Even though it is a fantasy, is still falls into the possibility column in my book. Not so sure that a meteor will move the moon off kilter, but the global climate change and natural disasters are definitely a real possibility that could cause a great loss to human life. It has become a struggle to survive with minimal food, which is all very believable. I feel that Pfeffer wrote a fantasy that meets any fantasy buffs A list.
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LibraryThing member camcleod
This was probably my favorite YA novel so far this year. Meteor strikes moon, knocking it out of orbit, severely disrupting environment. Storms, earthquakes, blizzards ensue over a period of months, and life grows more and more bleak for Miranda, her family, and the remaining beleaguered
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earthlings. Starvation isn't pretty. I especially liked Miranda's mom's occasional political jibes whenever they caught a bit of news on the radio. I worried about the whole family and was relieved when the ending didn't go down the dark road it seemed to be heading for. It might not be a meteor knocking the moon out of whack that destroys life as WE know it. Lots of other possibilities that might land us all in some post-apocalyptic dystopia. I'd like a little hope though.
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LibraryThing member stephxsu
One minute 16-year-old Miranda was worrying about getting a date and if she is ever going to be able to go back to the sport of figure skating again. The next, an asteroid has hit the moon, sending it closer to earth, affecting the planet in all sorts of ways as to make everyone believe that the
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apocalypse has come. Tides swamp miles of coastline cities; earthquakes and thunderstorms avail; and volcanoes erupt, spewing volcanic ash into the air, which hides the sun and makes the temperature drop dangerously.

This event changes the way they have to look at everything. Miranda’s mom, once so eager to share what they had, now tells her children that family comes first, before anyone else. Miranda’s older brother Matt does what he can to support the family and make sure they survive the brutal winter. Her younger brother Jonny is forced to grow up a lot faster than he should have to.

The fights, the fear, the good times—Miranda documents it all in her journal, as she and her family learn to sacrifice a little for what is most important when the world comes to an end: family.

LIFE AS WE KNEW IT hooks you and doesn’t let you go. Every time I had to take a break from reading, I stumbled out into the real world, where I was amazed to find that there was still plenty of food, water, electricity, and heat. Miranda’s simple, diary-like language thus makes her story all that more believable. This novel is an incredible achievement.
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LibraryThing member DebbieMcCauley
Fifteen-year-old Miranda is a teenager with a lot on her plate. Her diary entries record how her best friends are fighting, her father’s new wife is pregnant and after a serious injury she is arguing with her mother about whether she can return to ice skating. The news of a large asteroid
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scheduled to hit the Moon is a welcome distraction with people everywhere pulling up deckchairs to watch the spectacle. The consequences of the asteroid’s impact, however, are unforseen and catastrophic. Worldwide disasters hit when the Moon is knocked out of orbit and the Earth’s environmental controls are altered. Millions are killed when tidal waves obliterate coastal cities, thunderstorms rampage across the earth and volcanic eruptions cause a nuclear-type winter. Miranda’s mother has stocked up on canned goods, vitamin pills and other supplies but gas is rationed and the price skyrockets to $35 for the three gallons allowed per vehicle. Life goes on, but how long can Miranda and her family survive? Their food supply is dwindling, the water supply is in doubt, there is no electricity, no daylight and freezing temperatures. To make matters worse, disease rampages throughout the starving population, vigilantes make going out alone unsafe and survival seems hopeless. This science fiction novel for teens is the first in the "Moon Crash Trilogy". Family dynamics between Miranda, her mother and two brothers, during a prolonged crisis situation are deeply explored. A well written book that had me nervously looking at how much canned food is in my pantry!
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LibraryThing member ladycato
Miranda is a typical teenage girl. When news reports state that a meteor is going to hit the moon, she just grumbles that it's another excuse for homework. The reality is something much more nefarious - the moon is knocked closer into earth's orbit, triggering global tsunamis, starvation, and
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tectonic shifts. Miranda's diary relates the day to day struggles as her entire family changes in order to survive in this new Earth.

This was really, really good, and exactly what I hoped it would be. Miranda begins as a selfish, average teenager, but not unlikeable. In the course of the book, she grows even as she starves, and it really speaks a great deal about human endurance in a time of trial. I can't speak as to the accuracy of the science, but it was quite thought-provoking. The ending is good, too - not a cop-out, but good. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
In the life of sixteen year old Miranda Evans, an asteroid hitting the moon doesn’t seem very important, certainly not as important as her friends, her homework and her lack of a prom date. But this event is to have a enormous impact on the whole earth, including Miranda’s small corner of it.
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Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, takes this catastrophe and builds a story that had me glued to the pages.

As the moon is knocked out of it’s orbit and closer to earth strange things start occurring, from huge tidal waves wiping out the coasts, to violent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. This in turn leads to ash laden air that blocks out the sun. There is no growing season, food shortages and drastic climate changes become the norm. Shortages of gas and electricity add to the difficult conditions.

This is firstly a story of family, trying to survive, trying to do the right thing for each other, but also coming to the slow realization that not all may be saved. Who among them should be favoured, which ones were expendable. I am not a scientists so I can’t say for sure that things would happen in this way, but overall I found the story believable, chilling, and compelling.

The story is told through Miranda’s diary entries, so it’s focus was tightly on this family. What was happening in the rest of the world wasn’t readily available to Miranda or to the reader. Many questions were left unanswered, but I think this was absolutely the right approach to this story. Ultimately a inspiring story of family love, Life As We Knew It was a great read.
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LibraryThing member JuliaKay
This one pulled me into a whole nother world. I would stop reading the book andexpect to find the moon closer to the earth and a bunch of maddness about me. I could not get over how pretty much intranced I was with it. It seemed so real.It was an amazing book.
LibraryThing member lifeafterjane
Have you read this? It's a story with a familiar premise involving a giant meteor colliding with a neighboring celestial body, namely our moon. It was to be quite the show, nothing major but an event that would light up the sky and create a lasting once-in-a-lifetime memory. The world watched and
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waited, oohs and aahs on the tips of countless tongues like spectators gazing at fireworks on the 4th of July. Only, the meteor didn't just hit the moon.

It moved it.

The world erupted in a fury of storms, earthquakes, tidal waves and mayhem. In a matter of months all light from the sun was eclipsed by a blanket of volcanic ash and the summer gave way to dismal, piercing cold. No order, no protection, no comforts and no food.

Miranda and her family prepared for disaster better than some but there are several mouths to feed and an ever dwindling supply of food. Held captive in their suburban home enough miles from town to render any aid, even if it were available, useless, Miranda records the day to day survival of her family in her journal, detailing her family's every worsening conditions as cold, sickness and starvation bring them closer to death and desperation.

I grabbed this because it was dystopian and I've heard nothing but good things about it but given the premise I was prepared to be underwhelmed. They've made this concept into a movie several times over in the past few years. But those movies have never scared me, worried me, or distressed me the way this book did. There were no silly special effects, just a simple straight forward account of a time of absolute terror. I was so scared while I read it! I was cold and lost and I had to make myself put the book down from time to time just to get back to reality. I'd put the book down and look around amazed that I had electricity. I can admit to going into the kitchen and counting canned goods. This story is a million times better than any horror story because Miranda's narration made it so painfully real. I loved that there was no big heroic, climatic event. Had Miranda saved an infant falling into an earthquake crack or the government swooped in and picked them up in a helicoptor and sprinted them away to paradise I would probably have thrown it, but none of that happened. What happened was a normal family, just as yours or mine, who was so dependant on the comforts that their life had afforded them, suddenly found themselves with nothing, with an entire world so changed by catastrophe that they may never have anything again. Wonderful.
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LibraryThing member Lexicographer
I love me a good disaster. Always have. I suspect the single most influential fiction book during my most malleable years was After the Bomb, about a teenager trying to survive and save his family after a nuclear bomb is detonated over LA. I loved the grim, grittiness and the way humanity and
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goodness and loyalty and intelligence adapted and survived. There's nothing like a good disaster story to remind you of the amazing fragility and endurance of human beings.

I got the same feeling reading Life As We Knew It, the account of what happens after the moon is knocked out of its orbit by a wayward meteor. This was a compelling story, with flawed-but-valiant characters who don't triumph but endure through disaster. It was impossible not to be pulled into this world, to imagine what it would be like to be there, to wonder what you might do. Pfeffer's world is fully realized, and her characters are too. There is no super-human Polyanna-ing, just constant struggling and the perpetual struggle between despair and naive optimism. Well-written, fully imagined.
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LibraryThing member cathyskye
Protagonist: high school sophomore Miranda
Setting: present-day, a small town in northeast Pennsylvania

First Line: Lisa is pregnant.

The prospect of an asteroid hitting the moon is just a vaguely interesting news item to Pennsylvania teenager Miranda, for whom a date for the prom and the personality
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changes in her born-again friend, Megan, are more immediate concerns. Her priorities undergo a radical change however when that collision shifts the moon into a closer orbit, causing massive tsunamis, violent earthquakes, an upsurge in volcanism, and millions of deaths worldwide. Thanks to frantic preparations by her quick-thinking mother, Miranda's family is in better shape than many as utilities and public services break down, wild storms bring extremes of temperature, and outbreaks of disease turn hospitals into dead zones. Miranda's day-by-day journal entries focus on the stresses of spending months huddled in increasingly confined quarters, watching supplies dwindle, and wondering whether there will be any future to make the effort worthwhile.

I've always been a fan of well-written apocalyptic fiction, but I'm not sure why. I just know that I'm tickled when I run across a winner like Life As We Knew It. Miranda, a typical teenager at the beginning of the book, is changed dramatically by its end. As her world shrank, I felt claustrophobic, and reading of major earthquakes in the Midwest and Phoenix being buried in ash gave me chills. The characters' interactions are mesmerizing, and there are even flashes of humor here and least if you're not a George W. Bush fan. Although I knew the book had to end, I was disappointed when it did. I wouldn't be surprised if Life As We Knew It made my top ten reads list for the year. Pfeffer has written a sequel, The Dead and The Gone, which follows a different main character in a different location. It will be published in June, and I've pre-ordered it at Amazon.
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LibraryThing member jmchshannon
I have discovered a new love of post-apocalyptic fiction, if only because it gives me some great ideas on what I need to do to prepare myself for the worst. I learned quite a bit from Life As We Knew It, as there were some situations I never previously considered. While I do not think the moon will
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ever move closer to the earth, there are some definitely survival lessons to learn from books like this.

On top of that morbid fascination I have, Life As We Knew It was outstanding. For once, there is a YA novel in which the parent is not only present but is an active participant in the teenager's life. Because of that, Miranda displays typical teenage behavior - uncontrollable outbursts, temper tantrums, selfishness - that I personally found refreshing in its more realistic picture of a teen struggling to make sense of her world. The fact that a parent is around makes it that much more realistic, to me. I could relate to Miranda because while I wasn't dealing with numerous catastrophes, part of the growing-up process is making sense of a sometimes nonsensical world. Ms. Pfeffer definitely got this aspect right!

The journal approach to the telling of the story was interesting. It worked in that it humanized the overall story quite a bit. Even though one sees everything through only Miranda's eyes, the reader is left with a very real sense of the danger, the lack of hope, and the lack of a future each of the characters feel at one point in time. My only issue with the journals is that it was not necessarily believable. I have been journaling for a long time, so unless I am doing it wrong, I cannot recall I time I wrote down full dialogue in my journal. I do realize it is just a plot device, and that it works for the most part. There were times, though, when I could not help but stop reading to comment how unlikely it would be that a girl of sixteen would write down conversations in such detail. Fortunately, it was the only aspect of the book I did not like, and the story itself more than made up for any annoyance I felt at the inconsistent nature of the narrative.

Growth, maturity, family, and hope - those are main lessons of survival Life As We Knew It portrays. Forget the need for a wood stove or fireplace, forget the need for cash or stockpiles of food and water, blankets, and medicines, forget the need for some form of personal transportation that does not require a fuel source. Survival in any post-apocalyptic world requires gr0wth and adaptation, the maturity to do so, family to stay connected and human, and hope to keep you alive. They are powerful lessons, and Ms. Pfeffer does a fantastic job showcasing each characters acceptance of the lessons. In addition, through Ms. Pfeffer, the moon takes on a life of its own as it represents the constant fear each character must overcome. After reading Life As We Knew It, I will never look at the moon quite in the same light ever again.

Overall, this was a phenomenal story, unique in its disasters, powerful in its struggles, and scary in its possibilities. It is a YA/coming-of-age story that definitely does not feel like one. There is so much in the novel that people of almost any age group can and will enjoy it. I cannot wait to read the sequel and will be putting it on my husband's TBR pile immediately!
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LibraryThing member kivarson
Miranda's life as a teenager in a rural Pennsylvania town is irrevocably altered when the moon's orbit is thrown off course by a gigantic asteroid. Tsunamis, volcanoes, looting, starvation and medical pandemics threaten the survival of all on earth. Only through the foresight and seemingly selfish
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actions of Miranda's mother are she and her two brothers able to survive.
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LibraryThing member krau0098
I have been wanting to read this for a while. All I really knew about it was that it was supposed to be about the end of the world kind of and supposed to be really good. It was a very good book and really makes you think about how you would survive in a similar situation. I listened to this on
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audio book and the audio book was well done.

Miranda and her family are excited to go out and watch an asteroid hit the moon; there is supposed to be a big flash you can see from earth. Unfortunately it is then that disaster strikes. The asteroid is denser than expected and the moon is thrown out of orbit. The shift in the moon's gravitational pull is having catastrophic effects; there are tsunamis on the coasts, earthquakes everywhere, massive volcanic eruptions, and basically everything that could go wrong with the world is. Miranda and her family aren't in the thick of things where they live in Pennsylvania but they are living with a gradual decline; power is scarce, food is almost non-existent, and they are isolated from the rest of the country. Fears about food sources and heat as winter approaches make things more complicated.

This whole book is done as day by day journal entries by Miranda. The author does an excellent job of showing Miranda's ups and downs as she struggles through the events her and her family are put through. The author also does an excellent job of showing how Miranda's family's life declines in increments. There are no huge disasters here, well there are some, but mainly this book shows how the world could go into a slow decline and how people would do their best to survive. I found it to be a much more realistic take on "the end of the world" than many other books I have read. There is also a lot of focus on how close Miranda and her family become as they struggle to survive.

This book will really suck you in; it will make you laugh at times and make you cry at others. You really start to feel like you are part of Miranda's family and are holding your breath to see what they will have to fight through next. It is definitely not the most uplifting of books and at times is downright depressing. The author offsets this with occasional positive events and glimpses of hope. This book will definitely get you thinking about all that you take for granted in day to day life and about how fragile the structure of our information based society is.

There were a couple things that I didn't like about this book. Midway through it kind of drags. There is only so much that a reader can read about rationing food and trying to find ways to pass the time before they start to get a bit bored. So there were a couple parts where I impatiently wanted the story to get on with things. Also when Miranda is dictating conversations she ends every sentence with "he said", "I said", "she said" and that gets a bit repetitive but is probably representative of how a teenager would write in a journal.

Overall this is a wonderful book that really makes you think about the fragility of human society. A great take on the collapse of human society caused completely by natural disaster. It is not a happy book and is pretty depressing, but there are some glimpses of laughter and hope throughout. It will make you wonder how you would survive a similar situation. I have not decided if I want to read the next two books in this series or not. I would like to find out more about what happens to Miranda and her family, but it was a pretty depressing read and I am not sure I need that...especially in the winter.
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LibraryThing member TFS93
This wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be. I won't be looking for book 2 in the series.
LibraryThing member Samantha523
Passed around our library as "The Book to Read," Life as We Knew It is the best YA book I have read in a long time. Pfeiffer is able to capture the everyday life of a 15-year-old girl in a "true teen's voice" and still create a complex and sophisticated read of an apocalyptic event. Written in
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diary form, Pfeiffer's use of teen vernacular convinces the reader that they are not only reading Miranda's diary, but are also with her in those terrifying moments.
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LibraryThing member marnattij
When an asteroid hits the moon and forces it closer to earth, life as she knows it comes to an end for the narrator.

Edge of your seat read that's replaced Tomorrow When the War Began as my favorite survival story.
LibraryThing member ambookgeek
One of the most engrossing YA reads of the year!!!
LibraryThing member escondidolibrary
When a large meteor hits the moon and pushes it closer to the earth, Miranda's normal teenage life is changed forever. Tsunamis, volcanoes and climate changes kill millions throughout the world and leave the rest of humanity fighting for survival. How will Miranda and her family make it through
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black-outs, food shortages and disease outbreaks?

I love survival stories and this was one of the best I've read.
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LibraryThing member meerka
Probably one of the most engrossing YA novels I've ever read. A must for every teen who takes life as we know it for granted. Chill inducing. I probably would have been freaked out if I'd read it as a teen since I was bothered by it as an adult. A must for all those concerned about the lack of
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action regarding near earth orbiting asteroids. They've been talking about it for 35 years...time to DO something!
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