Sunday, February 22, 2009

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The first thing I thought as I was reading this book was, "This could happen!!" and "Does NASA have a plan? God I hope NASA has a plan!" Kept me up for a few nights. I felt like I had to take survival notes. 1. Fill up gas tanks. 2. Go to Wegmans and get lots of water and non-perishable food. 3. Stay away from the coasts. etc... Seriously, I got nervous! But, isn't the sign of a good book one that gets us thinking? If that is the case then this one is a winner.

Because it made me think, and for many other reasons, I liked this book. Once again I was drawn to the strong female characters and thought all the characters were realistic and well developed. I especially liked the mother. She has a great, practical, take charge attitude. I also like the way Pfeffer handles the decisions she makes about which child needs what...very Sophie's Choiceish.
I also think Miranda's character is well developed. I love the diary format and think it works well for this story. It gives the reader a real sense of what Miranda is feeling and going through. I liked seeing how her character matures through the novel, and the selfless act at the end was well play out, not overly dramatic.

Regarding the end...I did not see the "hope" coming. I truly thought she would go into town and die. I liked that there was a chance of things working out, but that fact that Pfeffer doesn't make it a "for sure" happy ending works- there is hope, but it's not over done or maudlin. I think that is what I like best about this book, it was both terrifying and hopeful at the same time.

I am curious if any of you had a chance to read the companion book, and what you thought of that compared to this? I will stop here to see what you thought about Life As We Know It, and to see who had a chance to read The Dead and Gone. I have to confess, I liked the first book better...but thought the idea of looking at the same catastrophe from a different perspective was a great idea. I am anxious to see what you all thought.


Kim Seeley said...

Ok, Kathy... I liked this much better than Unwind! For those of you that don't know, I put my time in on Unwind and just couldn't get through it!!! I LOVED Life As We Knew it! The whole concept of an asteroid hitting the moon freaked me out. I think it could happen, right? I thought the characters were very well developed and I liked the idea of the journal. It did get a little long at the end... I was anxious to find out what happened. I was a little disappointed at the ending because I feel like it left me hanging. I feel like a sequel needs to come out! However, I would recommend this book to one of my higher level special ed readers! I would give it an 8 out of 10! :) Good pick Kathy!

Dawn said...

I was really looking forward to reading this book because a student stated that he really liked it. He thought I would like The Dead and Gone more, but he didn’t give too much information and left it up to me to decide. He was excited when he saw the book on Mrs. Kryger’s desk because he thought that we were going to read it in class. It was good to see a student so into something that he read on his own.
As for the book, I liked and disliked parts of it. Just when I got to a point when I would say I didn’t like it, something pulled me back in. For example, I started to feel like the day to day journal started to seem repetitive, but then something big happened, like Megan’s death, and I wanted to read more. The overall concept of the book was scary. However, I wanted more information. For example, how did Miranda’s mom realize so quickly that they needed to get to the store to stock up on food? I would have thought more time would have passed before panic like that set in.
I felt like some of the information in the book was irrelevant. What happened to Becky, and why was that important? It just seemed like her death was stated numerous times, and I was hoping for more information on how Miranda, Sammi and Megan were different when Becky was alive and on how her death changed them. Also, I felt like Miranda’s obsession with Brandon was just added in and not followed up on enough. Finally, why did Miranda look up to Matt so much? What did he do for her to create such a great bond between the two of them? I wanted more.
One of the most intriguing parts of the book was Megan. I just thought the whole religious aspect was thought provoking. It almost seemed more like a cult to me, especially when Miranda went to visit Reverend Marshall, and he was eating well because people would bring him food, yet they were starving.
After reading the book and thinking about it, it shows how difficult it would be for us to deal with losing what we have now. Back in the day, people use to live without tv, cell phones and other luxuries. It would be difficult reverting back to that, but history proves that we can survive.

Maria said...

I liked this book because I kept sensing thematic connections to other pieces... the survival mode connected to NIGHT, picking a survivor/who could do the most with themselves/family sacrifice for one reminded me of SWEET POTATO PIE, the atmosphere of volcanic ash reminded me of SEARCHING FOR SUMMER, the hunger and close proximity for survival purposes seemed to reflect THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK...many connections to other reads. I liked Miranda and that she was shown as a typical teenager being selfish, attacking the chocolate chips, feeling betrayed that the family picked the younger brother to survive, dealing with regular friendship issues that seem so big at that age, etc. Yet, as the story line develops, the reader definitely senses growth and maturity especially as she accepts the fact that her younger brother may be the survivor, and she is willing to sacrifice her life for that without resentment. This is ironic as she appeared to be anti-religion, yet the self-sacrifice is the ultimate gift. Ironically, the priest sacrificed nothing, and she called him on it. I agree with Dawn in that there were parts that were underdeveloped and maybe unnecessary - like the friend that died before the book started, the ice skating thing, etc... But it was not distracting enough to pull me away from the basic idea and concept behind the book. I wonder if they were used to show that there was once some normalcy and refelcting back on those things brought a sense of normalcy to the situation. Not sure! I did not love the ending. It was so emotionally heavy when Miranda was going to her final trip to search for help. Then, there are people with bags of food to give out hanging out in a heated office wondering why no one came to get the supplies...HELLO - get on your snow mobile and check the area, look for survivors, get out of your heated room and go door to door...might they do something useful? (or is this just a mockery of govt. as a whole?). Overall, it was good story line where a reader can get emotionally involved feeling the hunger and the panic that the characters may have felt. Unique choice, Kathy, but I liked it!

rebeccakryger said...

I enjoyed reading this novel, but I feel like students would enjoy it even more. The concept of a natural disaster affecting the world is both intriguing and frightening. I found myself questioning how I might react if put in this situation. It was scary to think about being cut off from the world without all of the amenities we rely on so much.
In terms of characters, Miranda’s voice seemed forced at the beginning, but she became more believable as the plot deepened. I did not like her “going off to die” at the end. I feel like the drive for survival would have prevailed, as we saw throughout the novel. I liked that Miranda’s family was somewhat “typical”; students could benefit from seeing a family come together to get through a challenging situation. I would have liked to have found out about Miranda’s father and step-mother. Did they make it? Did the baby survive? There were many questions left unanswered, which may have been the intent, but I still wanted to know more.
There were a few things that needed more clarification in my mind. First, what was the situation with Becky like before her death, and how did she impact the present situation? We did not get enough background on their friendship to make the connection clear. Second, at the end, they start receiving food—what has happened in the country to initiate this development? I wanted to know more about how the rest of the country was fairing and how food was suddenly made available. Third, I think the science behind what happened could have gone into more detail; for a high-schooler, perhaps we got enough information, but as an adult reader, I wanted more.
Students would really enjoy this novel—it deals with a teenager’s perspective on a natural distaster, friendship, and the strong bond of family. I will be reading the second novel, as I’ve already had a student tell me that he’s read both and liked the second one even more than the first.

Kathy J. said...

Kathy posting for Jen

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Life As We Knew It/ Unwind
I loved this book. I would say that I may have liked it as much as I enjoyed Unwind. I, like Kathy, started to think about what I should have in the cupboards that I don't have. My family would not do well. Although, Chef Shawn, should be able to be creative.
I thought about how during the Y2K scare Shawn and his friend had a map of Wegmans and a plan of who would get what, where it would all be stored, how they would transport it, etc... I was in charge of canned goods which is was a strange connection to Miranda. There are actually many Americans who deal with the survival idea on a regular basis. The underground militia is very alive as I found out when I worked in Kendall. Honestly, I may try to get out there if something like this did happen. I hope that our government would prove stronger than they were in the book. However, if nothing has ever been planned, this could happen. I thought the spiritual connection with Megan's character. I believe it was a negative depiction. I am okay with that. I think there would be many people like those in Megan's church. I also think there would be many situations like Sammi's. One thing that I was hoping would be completed was the Becky story. I just wondered what happened to her beyond what was told.
I loved the strong female characters. I think students would like the ease of the diary style. There are many sociological, anthropoligical, and pyschological connections that could be discussed while reading this book.

I never posted about Unwind. I will be brief. I really enjoyed this book as well. However, I think I would need to reread it. There is so much in there. The idea that adults could be so stupid is a realistic view for many teens. I hope that we would not be this way and never let anything like this come to fruition. I especially like the chosen one, whose name escapes me. He did save the main characters for whom I had hope. This is a great book to do in a class. There is so many interesting and complex discussions that could come as a result. A book that makes kids think... I love it.

Cherie said...

I have to admit when I started reading the book, I thought the idea was a little far fetched, but I kept reading, and before I knew it I was sucked in to the story!

I liked the style of the book, the journal format I feel really gave the reader a day to day picture of what life was like after the asteroid. As I was reading though I kept generating more and more questions... What would happen to everyone if this did occur (or another major event like this)? Am I prepared for this (I went to the store after and stockpiled canned goods!) Why was Miranda focused on Becky and what actually happened to her? Sometimes I felt that certain parts of the book were not explained thoroughly enough for my liking. I also felt, as Kim did, that we were left without a true ending. Is there a sequel planned? I feel like I need to know how things worked out in the end!

I thought this book was thought provoking and interesting so I did read the Dead and the Gone (one of my students saw it on my desk too and recommended it) Did anyone else read it? I don't want to say too much but would like to get someone elses persepective on that book too.

Lisa said...


Lisa said...

I really enjoyed reading Life As We Knew It. It's funny how reading a novel like this gets you thinking...what if this did happen, something like this could happen. I must say that I appreciate our "resources" more than I used to. I liked the journal format and believe that many students would as well. I was also disappointed in some of the undeveloped characters and ideas. I like how the author had Miranda's father and his new/pregnant wife Lisa all staying under one roof and everyone got along for the most part. I wish we knew if they made it and the baby was born. I liked how Miranda would not give up hope. The author showed the mauturation of the characters and sacrifices they made with interesting twists. I didn't like the part where she went off to town to die either. It was bizarre that people were there with food to hand out to the survivors. Didn't anyone think to look for those still living? This was definitely a thought provoking book, especially with the economy today. If we lose power we think it's the end of the world, could you imagine something worse?? I would like to see a sequel!!

Dawn said...

I loved The Dead & the Gone. I would love to chat about this book with anyone who read it. I don't want to write it here just in case someone is reading the book still.

Rebecca Kennedy said...

I enjoyed this book immensely and found myself reading it very quickly. I was intrigued by the possibility that this might happen and found myself analyzing whether or not I would be able to survive a similar apocalypse. It made me feel like I needed to stock up on non-perishables and get a fireplace to heat the house without gas.

I enjoyed the story overall, but I felt like I was left with many of the same questions others have mentioned so far. I was unclear on the role of Becky in the novel. I do not feel like it was necessary to mention her at all, it did not add anything but confusion to the story.

I also did not like the involvement of the ice skater. This to me also served no purpose and the scene at the pond actually annoyed me when I was reading it. It continued to annoy me as I kept trying to figure out if it really happened or it it was a hallucination or dream of some sort.

I also felt like I was left with some unanswered questions at the end. Miranda found food, but what happened to the family after that? Also what happened to her father, step mom and their baby? Maybe there needs to be a sequel?
All in all I really liked this novel. It did a great job of depicting a strong family coming together in tough times to survive.
I think students would find this novel interesting and enjoyable. It would lend itself to many discussions and extension projects. I would definitely be interested to hear what students think about the novel.

I also read The Dead and The Gone, I enjoyed this novel as well, in some ways more than the first one, in other ways not as much. It was an interesting concept, telling the same story from a different perspective. Although, I also felt a little like I was left hanging at the end of this book. I want to know what happened next!!

ksalecki said...

I also really enjoyed "Life As We Knew It" and think it would make for very interesting class discussion if half of the class read it and the other half read "The Dead and the Gone." I love when authors tell the same, or, in this case, similar stories from different perspectives.
I also liked how the author used the diary format. Like Kathy said, it gives the reader real insight on the true thoughts of Miranda. It showed how much she had to struggle to stay strong in front of her family, but how she was still a slightly selfish teenager who just wanted to be a kid and was forced to grow up in the face of tragedy. While our students will hopefully never have to face an event as extreme as the one described in the book, many of them are still forced to grow up before their time because of other circumstances in their lives- parents addicted to drugs or alcohol, parents who are never around yet who have younger children that our students are forced to take care of, etc.
Also, like many of you mentioned, this book really made me think of how unprepared I would be if something like this really did occur and what I would have to do to prepare myself. Even a month after reading this I still occasionally dream about having to run to the store and stock up on canned goods etc. As I was reading it I remember being very hungry and thankful that I could eat real meat and chocolate chip cookies (not at the same time) and just hop on the internet if I needed to look something up.
Overall, as disturbing as it was, I think it was a very good book that could generate a lot of interesting classroom discussion and maybe even get our students to appreciate (if only for a little bit) that life as they KNOW it really isn't so bad.

cvanslyk said...

I'm sorry to be so late posting for this book. I read "Life As We Knew It" and "The Dead and the Gone" on our way to Florida and back during February break week. However, it has taken me several weeks to get my computer going again. I loved both of these books. I think many of our students would very much enjoy them as well. I agree with Maria about the many connections this book makes. My students enjoyed reading "Night" and seem to do well with survivor types of stories. The journal entries make the book easier to read and also make the characters easier to relate to. The ending did leave us wondering what happened to the father, Lisa, baby Rachael, the grandmother and other friends who had left. It would be very nice if Susan Pfeffer would write a sequel. I liked most of the characters but found myself getting angry with the father for abandonning his family. Miranda and her Mom had to suffer so much just to keep members of their family and close friends alive. It really shows how many things we take for granted in our society, such as heat, food, and safety. Although this was science fiction, it really raised my concerns about how we could handle or even survive a disaster of this magnetude. The themes of love, loyalty, generosity, survival, importance of family and hope for the future could be used for classroom discussions. Kathy, this was an excellent choice and I would like to read more books by this author. I will definitely encourage my students to read this novel.