Review: Life As We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: Life As We Knew It
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publication date: 1 May 2008
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-15-206154-8
Length: 337 pages
Genre: Post-apocalyptic fiction
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | AwesomeBooks | The Book Depository


High school sophomore Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the moon closer to Earth, the way “one marble hits another.” The result is catastrophic. How can her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis are wiping out the coasts, earthquakes are rocking the continents, and volcanic ash is blocking out the sun? As August turns dark and wintry in north-eastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in a year’s worth of journal entries, this heart-pounding story chronicles Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

My thoughts

Have you ever read a book which was so annoying at times that you knew you were not supposed to like it, but for some weird reason you still did? That pretty much sums up how I felt about Life As We Knew It. While the first half of the book really vexed me, I ended up falling in love with the second half and not being able to put the book down.

What put me off and annoyed me the most in the first half was characterization. My God, it’s bad. The main character, a girl called Miranda, is supposed to be sixteen years old. She has two siblings: a younger brother called Jonny, aged 13, and an older brother called Matt, who is 18 (19 by the time the story ends). It’s been quite a while since I was sixteen years old myself but I’m pretty sure neither me, nor any of my classmates behaved or talked the way Miranda does throughout the story. To say that she’s immature and childish would be the understatement of the year. So much so that I found Jonny (just a reminder: he’s only thirteen) a lot more mature than her and that’s never a good sign. And if that wasn’t frustrating enough, their older brother was, unlike Mirandaa, too mature for his age. There was even a scene where, after listening to their mother’s suggestion, he  actually says something like “that’s not what we’re going to do”. And that’s where I got beyond irritated. You’re only eighteen, for the love of God! You’re not supposed to be the one to your mother what to do, not even in a situation like this. I don’t know if the author has any children or not but real teenagers aren’t like this, that’s for sure.

Another – slightly less annoying but disappointing all the same – thing I didn’t really like is how slow-paced the book was. Compared to other dystopian and post-apocalyptic books I’ve read before, this one seemed to take a really long time to pick up pace and was far from what I’d describe as “heart-pounding”.

However, the idea of the moon being knocked closer to Earth, causing a number of disasters in its wake is brilliant and despite everything I’ve just said, by the time I got to the second half of the book I was hooked. Although Miranda has finally started to change for the better and, after having to take care of her family during an epidemic, act in a lot more mature way, I was still irritated by Matt’s know-it-all attitude. But by this point, I couldn’t care less. As their food and water supply got scarcer and scarcer, on the verge of running out, I wanted to know what happens next. Despite all their flaws, I even started to like them as a family and wanted to know if they’d survive and if yes, how. In other words, I couldn’t put the book down.

I have to say, this book really puzzled me. This is the first time when, despite great ideas but a rather poor execution, I still managed to enjoy the book, so much so that I’d already ordered the sequel. I’ve no idea why but it really is addictive. I’m hoping the next installment will be a bit better in terms of character development and action, though. All in all, I’d say it’s a decent read which would appeal to a slightly younger audience. It’s not the most action-packed book you’ll ever read but it’s interesting all the same.


“Lisa is pregnant. Dad called around 11 o’clock to let us know. Only Mom had already taken Jonny to his baseball practice and of course Matt isn’t home from college yet, so I was alone to get the big news.

‘The baby is due in December,’ Dad crowed, like he was the first guy in history of the world with a younger second wife about to have a baby. ‘Isn’t that great! You’re going to have a little brother or sister. Of course it’s too soon to tell what it’s going to be, but as soon as we know, we’ll tell you. I wouldn’t mind another daughter myself. The first one I had turned out so wonderfully. How’d you like a baby sister?'”

3 star rating


  1. says

    I completely agree with the immaturity of the characters. Miranda irked me quite a bit throughout the book. Unfortunately, the series just went downhill from there, but I will still be reading the final forth book. I did love the premise of the book and I only wished it had stronger characters.
    Ashley recently posted..Top Ten Books At The Top Of My Summer TBR ListMy Profile

    • says

      Oh no, that doesn’t sound too promising. :( I’ve just got the second book so I guess I’ll see if it improves or not.

    • says

      Exactly, she was ridiculously unrealistic. But I really liked the idea and the plot itself. Book #2 is on its way so we’ll see if that’s any better!

    • says

      It’s not that bad but yeah, Miranda was really annoying at first. I did like the second half though, so I still think it’s worth a try. But maybe borrow it first instead of buying it :)

  2. Jenna says

    Thanks for the honest and nice review! I’ve definitely felt the same with other books, good story idea but poor execution. I’m not sure I’ll pock this one up as i might be tempted to throw the book because of the characters’ immaturity, haha. Anyway, I’ll be watching out for ur review of the second book :) then ill decide if ill read it hehe

    • says

      Good call :) It’s actually quite an addictive story in a weird way so it may happen that I fall in love with the sequel… Who knows?
      But we’ll see, I guess. :)

  3. says

    Thanks for the honest review. I know how strange it is to feel differently about a book at one moment then that feeling changes to something else. I guess you are either enjoying what’s happening in the book more than the character or vice versa. Thanks for sharing.
    Vicky. :)

  4. says

    Blast from the past!
    I read these books a few years back and I absolutely loved them!
    I don’t know why, I shouldn’t have loved them as much as I did, but I did!
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    • says

      Most of my friends loved it too. :) I don’t know. It was strangely addictive but the characters’ immaturity still bothered me. A lot.

  5. says

    I really can’t get over that beautiful cover – I love how huge the moon is! I’m a little disappointed that this didn’t get a higher rating from you, but I can understand why. I HATE it when the main character doesn’t act their age. Miranda would probably annoy the crap out of me, and so would her brother. :( Sorry you didn’t like this more, Vicky, but thanks for such a helpful review all the same!
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    • says

      It’s so pretty, isn’t it? :) The good thing about it was that the idea behind the book was great. So at LEAST it made me interested enough to keep on reading, even if the characters pissed me off. Or rather their behaviour. I did like Miranda but she didn’t act like a 16-year-old…

      I ordered the second book a few weeks ago so I guess we’ll see if the series improves or not. :)

  6. says

    I haven’t looked ay this book for ages, and when I did try reading it I didn’t like it and ambled through the pages, reading fragments before sending it back to the library, so I can’t say I remember all that much about the characters, their personalities or ways or acting. I remember feeling like it was very slow and wanting things to pick up, but for the time I had it they didn’t. I really enjoyed your review and it’s great you were able to enjoy the book, despite not liking everything- I didn’t realise there were more books to come, but hopefully they’re good, too!
    Romi recently posted..Mini Reviews (5)My Profile

    • says

      I was the same as you, actually. I found it really slow and wanted something to happen – but in the first half of the book, nothing really did. The second half was a lot better, though. :)

  7. says

    I know exactly what you mean because I felt the same way. I found the sequel to be equally vexing and enjoyable at the same time. I’m really invested in this tragedy though so I really want to know if they survive.

    There is so much time spent on each character’s day-to-day thoughts and activities that we don’t make a lot of progress. I think that’s why I’m so addicted because I really want to know how everything turns out.

    I stopped reading after the sequel but then I heard that the author will make a 4th book. I’ll probably finish the series once that one is written.
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