Book Review: Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors, #1)Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I think is best just to read for fun and not overthink. When I first finished the book, I really enjoyed it for the reasons I’ll get to shortly, but now that I’m working on a review, I keep finding things that, the more I analyze them, the less I enjoy this book. I still like it enough that I want to keep reading the series, and I will definitely add it to my personal library at the school for my kids to read, but I do have some questions as to how strong the message is for young female readers.

Among its good qualities, I felt that this book was a really quick read. I wanted to know what was going to happen, if the characters were going to survive, or, more accurately, which characters were going to survive! I enjoyed the epistolary format of the diary, and seeing the events unfold through the relatively naive eyes of a teenage girl was especially suspenseful in a few places, while still maintaining an appropriate level of humor as she is sometimes full of the normal teenage angst in spite of the extraordinary circumstances of the novel.

I enjoyed watching Miranda grow as a person to meet the challenges brought on by the sudden shift of the moon. I like that she was self-aware to know when she was being a total brat, but not so self-aware that she could recognize her own strengths. In that regard, it was easy to relate to the character as that was my own experience as a teenage girl. I, too, would emphasize my faults and not be aware of my good qualities.

There are a few things, however, that I find somewhat unbelievable. In my own memories of that age, I can’t imagine not going to find my friends more often than Miranda did. As such, some of the supporting characters don’t seem fully fleshed out. For instance, we rarely see Miranda truly being friendly with her two supposed best friends, Sammi and Megan, and while the death of their mutual friend before the events of the novel is used as an explanation of why they’ve fallen apart, I’m not sure I was convinced that they were ever close.

The character of Sammi is almost completely cliche and barely ranks high enough to be a supporting character. Meanwhile, Megan seems like she should be the best friend, but (with the exception of Miranda’s last visit with her) we never see them share a true camaraderie. Megan is completely judgmental and as such, I find it difficult to find sympathy for her.

It may be a small thing, and maybe it’s due to the limited perspective of the MC or the constraints of the YA genre, but I would have liked some of the other characters to be rounded out a bit more.

Furthermore, the biggest issue I have with this novel, now that I’m analyzing it, is that I’m not sure that I find Miranda to be a good role model for young girls. While she certainly grows as a person, and she saves the day more often than any other character, she is too often making sacrifices that I think are unrealistic. Several times she considers which of them should be the one to survive, i.e. the one who gets to eat the most or who has the most promising future, and (at least in the beginning) she seems to realize that it is unfair that she isn’t the one that her mother is betting on to survive.

At some point, I think she should have been.

Instead of being promoted to an important leadership role of the family, she is constantly put back to work doing “woman’s work” and being asked to skip meals for the others. I suppose if it’s meant to be some sort of religious allegory about how faith and self-sacrifice for the greater good can ultimately save you, then I guess the message is fine, but I don’t think that is the real message, especially given how the character views the devout believers in the book. Or perhaps those devout believers are truly hypocrites and Miranda is the true believer, even though she isn’t aware of it. I don’t know.

Like I said, as much as I enjoyed the book on a first read, the more I try to determine the message for the teenage audience, the more I’m struck by how it reinforces some of the more negative aspects of gender roles. I still highly recommend it because it was enjoyable in the moment, and I’ll probably get the rest of the books in the series as well.

Just, do yourself a favor and don’t try to analyze this one.

View all my reviews

About Elizabeth

First and foremost I am a teacher. What I teach is a blend of grammatical art, literary love, and a smidge of spiritual awareness. My blog tries to combine the best of all three over a cup of tea.

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