Thursday, November 1, 2007
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (audiobook)
How would you react if a catastrophic event threatened not only your existence, but the existence of everyone on the planet? I hope that I would have the common sense that Miranda’s mother had.
Told in the form of a diary, Life As We Knew It is the diary of a Miranda, a typical Pennsylvania high school student who is mostly concerned with typical high school worries: getting a date to the prom, fighting with her mom, doing her homework. She’s not all that fascinated with the news that an asteroid is going to hit the moon, but on the fateful night, she dutifully goes out to yard to watch the event. Nobody expects the asteroid to actually push the moon closer to the earth, and nobody is prepared for the aftereffects.
Miranda’s mother realizes that things will not be good. She clears her bank account and buys everything she can think of to ensure the family’s survival. As Miranda, her mother, and her two brothers go into survival mode, the world slowly crumbles around them. Massive tsunamis and earthquakes destroy large sections of the civilized world. Volcanic eruptions block out sunlight and cause an early winter (frost in August, winter quickly follows). There is no electricity, natural gas will soon run out, and there is no food in the grocery stores. Fortunately the boys spend a considerable amount of time chopping wood for their woodstove, and Miranda’s father and stepmother stop by with food on their way out west in search of a safer place to live. As time goes on, the family realizes that in order to survive, they will have to stretch out their food as long as possible. At first that means only two meals a day. Eventually it means much less. And friends around them are dying . . .
I was fortunate enough to get a free copy of the audio version of Life As We Knew It from Susan Beth Pfeffer’s website. I had really enjoyed the book and was eager to see how I’d feel about the audiobook.
Listening to an audiobook is a much different experience than reading the book. I tend to read pretty quickly – Life As We Knew It probably took me about two hours. I listened to the seven hours of the audio version on the way to and from work and it took about two weeks. Listening to the book made me appreciate even more what it must be like to be hungry all the time, and yet afraid that one day there would be no more food, and the family would simply starve to death. I also really loved Miranda. Ms. Pfeffer has done a wonderful job of portraying her character – she is a real, believable (and, at times, whiny) teenager who has to learn to deal with a truly horrible situation. Emily Bauer’s voice is perfect for Miranda. Sometimes I had to turn off the cd player and just think about what had happened and how I would react to it.
A couple of weeks ago I did a student survey with an eighth grade class. One of the questions on the survey was “What is your favorite book?” I was thrilled when one student (the only student at my school who’s had an opportunity to read it) chose Life As We Knew It. I had booktalked it to her class and she picked it out. Seeing a child check out a book that I loved and appreciate it herself is one of the most rewarding aspects of librarianship. I'm thrilled to have such a wonderful book to recommend to my students.