Monday, October 30, 2006

And Yet I Had Trouble Putting It Down

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is another one of those journal books that I'm really close to hating. Seriously, if I ever start to write one of those things, I hope someone takes me out and shoots me.

However, not too far into the book a meteor hits the moon and things get a lot better.

Life As We Knew It is basically the story of a stereotypical girly-girl high school student who is thrown into a nightmare when an asteroid hits the moon and changes its orbit, which causes all kinds of things to happen on Earth. And right away. Hundreds of thousands are killed in tsunamis. Then earthquakes follow and volcanoes erupt. Civilization pretty much falls.

The writing style is a little uneven. The portions that involve the narrator’s high school life seem flat. Sometimes the phrasing is awkward and simplistic.

I'm unsure of the science behind this novel. I'm just not knowledgable enough to know if there is any scientific basis in what happens, and there's not a lot of "science" in the story to suggest that the events are plausible. This may not matter. The narrator probably wouldn’t have known the science behind what was happening to her. Still, perhaps providing a high school science teacher early on who could do some explaining and predicting would have helped make this a little more hardcore scifi.

After having said all that, I have to admit, this book really grabbed me. Pfeffer's strong point is portraying suffering and the response of people to what is happening to them. The screaming in the streets. The hoarding at the grocery store. While I was reading the grocery store scenes, I thought, “Damn. We’re nearly out of toilet paper.” Would we make it until I could go shopping? While I was reading about the father crying in the car as he drove away from his children, I was crying in my car. (Someone else was driving.) I was anxious while reading this book and talked about it incessantly.

By the end of Life As We Knew It, I was even buying into the main character's teenage fantasies, which by then had become sad, tragic things. And she knew it.

The beauty of a book like this is that the events being described have never happened. They may never happen. For all I know, it may be impossible for them to happen. Readers can place themselves in the characters' shoes (there is an attractive older brother for the boys) and wonder how they would have responded, secure in the knowledge that it's unlikely that they'll ever have to find out.


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