All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

This World We Live In – Susan Beth Pfeffer

on December 16, 2010

**Spoilers for Life As We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone**

In This World We Live In, we’re back with Miranda and her diary. It’s almost a year since the day the meteor hit the Moon and Miranda and her family are still struggling by. They are still receiving a bag of food for each member every Monday and it’s enough to get them though if they’re careful. In May though, they stop delivering the food and someone must trek into town each week to pick it up. Matt, Miranda’s older brother has the idea to go fishing in the Delaware for shad and he and the younger brother set off and are gone nearly a week. They return with plenty of fish and also, Matt’s new wife, a woman named Syl who settles into the household like she’s always been there.

Miranda goes looting the nearby houses, looking for things like toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo and other cosmetics, books to read to pass the time, small electric heaters, anything that might be useful. They get intermittent electricity so the heaters can be used to warm up other parts of the house during those times and help save firewood. Why it only occurs to her to do this now (they went looking for food before, but never other things that might’ve been of use) I don’t know. You’d think that once you realised you were living in a ghost town and there was hardly anybody else left, you’d loot it for everything it had. No one is coming back for their things. And you might as well take anything that might help prolong your own life or at least help make it more comfortable!

Basically nothing happens except daily rituals for 90 pages and then the book finally decides to marry the stories of the previous two. Miranda’s father, his wife Lisa and their new baby Gabriel arrive back on the doorstep accompanied by a man named Charlie that they met in an evacuation camp and also, Alex and Julie Morales from The Dead and the Gone. The situation in other places is just as bleak and influenza and quarantine meant that Miranda’s father and Lisa couldn’t get to where they were going in Life as We Knew It. So Hal (Miranda’s father) decides that he wants to be with his children and back they came. Everyone stays at Miranda’s for a while but that quickly becomes unacceptable due to over-crowding so Hal, Lisa, the baby, Charlie and the Morales move into Mrs Nesbitt’s place, Miranda’s closest neighbour and their friend who died in the first novel. They get settled in the town, secure food for themselves and life goes on. Still.

Miranda and Alex are roughly the same age and therefore, fall instantly in love without barely even speaking or having anything to do with each other. Miranda wanted a boy her own age around and one arrives and then that’s it. All of a sudden she loves him with the fire of a thousand suns and he would ‘love her forever if he could’. Quite frankly, this plot development (can I even call it that?) was weird. Miranda and Alex barely spoke in the first few days of his arrival, she wrote in her diary several times that she didn’t like him much and then all of a sudden it’s all about how much she loves him and their stolen kisses. It was odd – very clunky and jarring and didn’t feel right or smooth at all.

Alex is also a totally different character from when we last saw him in The Dead and the Gone. We don’t know what happened to him in the meantime but in this novel, he’s stand offish, negative, bitter, unlikable and tends towards bullying his younger sister Julie who in turn, seems to have matured some. They’re always arguing because Alex wants to put her in a convent and then go and join a monastery, believing that no one can keep Julie safe like the Church can. Even after he ‘falls in love’ with Miranda, he is unswerving in this belief and it’s really kind of irrational. There’s no reasoning for it other than it’s what his older brother Carlos told him to do. He has no way of knowing if things at the convent are still safe, if people are even still there, and he and Julie have a safe place to stay, shelter, food, etc with Hal, Lisa and Charlie but still he is stubborn in his refusal to consider other options. He and Miranda have endless conversations that go around in circles and go a little something like this:

Miranda: Alex. Don’t go. We love each other. You’re family now, you and Julie.
Alex: I have to. It’s for the best. The Church will take care of Julie
Miranda: But I love you! And I know you love me. Don’t go!
Alex: I have to. It’s for the best. The Church will take care of Julie
Miranda: You know you belong here and I know you want to stay here. Julie wants to and I know you want it to
Alex: I have to. It’s for the best. The Church will take care of Julie
Miranda: WHY?
Alex: Because Carlos said so. I have to. It’s for the best. The Church will take care of Julie.

Oh God was it ever frustrating! And it also makes no sense. If there’s one thing that these novels have rammed home, it’s that there is no continuity anymore and there are no guarantees, of anything. You can’t place everything you have on the hope of one convent because your older brother told you to do so months ago. What you have is the here and the now, and what Alex didn’t realise he had was a roof, people around him that cared for him and looked after his sister, and food. There was no immediate danger and he didn’t have to travel any further. Instead he refuses to even consider the remote possibility of flexibility and his pigheadedness results in a few losses and also, one very big eye opener. And even then he still doesn’t learn.

This is the conclusion of the trilogy and overall, it’s a very unsatisfying one. It’s mundane and trivial for the first third of the book and then the characters seem to kind of lurch from one disaster to the next with no real structure. In the end you kind of feel like the disasters are just happening for disasters sake and to advance the plot. Kill someone off here, destroy something there, make things just a little bit harder for the characters left behind and wow, new hardships! Except not really because it’s basically the same thing we’ve been reading in all the other novels except all the characters are together now.

And the ending is hokey. I guess we’re just supposed to guess for ourselves what really happens, I’m going to go with eventually and one by one, they all die horrible deaths in the midst of natural disasters until there is one person left. And then that person dies a horrible death.

Why did I read this? Well actually, I saw a great reason on goodreads when I was browsing some reviews of this novel to see if I was the only one perhaps unhappy with the direction this trilogy went in (the answer to that seems to be a resounding no, I’m not the only person feeling that way at all). Someone described reading this book as being like “when you’ve ordered in pizza and you’ve eaten so much and you’re really full and there’s one piece left. You don’t want to eat it but you can’t just let it sit there either”. I’m paraphrasing but that’s really how I felt. I’ve read the two previous books, I’d come this far – there was this one left to go and it was sitting there in front of me. Might as well!


Book #115 for 2010

This novel was read for the YA Dystopian Challenge hosted over at Bart’s Bookshelf. It’s novel #9 I’ve completed for the challenge.

4 responses to “This World We Live In – Susan Beth Pfeffer

  1. Kirah says:

    Hi, I was assigned a book report so I picked Life As We Knew It. I very much enjoyed it! My teacher wants me to write something about why you wrote the book and how it was related to your life. I was hoping I could get your email to discuss this more. I couldn’t really find your email so I was wondering if you could give it to me! Thanks a bunch!


  2. Nick says:

    Hey there! I’m Nick and I’ve been following the “Last Survivors” series since I read the first page and loved it. I was wondering if I could create a fourm on Gaia Online (Ever heard of it? Great place, indeed.) That sort of continued Miranda’s little adventures… I just thought I’d ask permission so I didn’t get sued… My parents wouldn’t like that… Any way, If you would email me a reply I would be eternally grateful

    P.S. Do you plan on making any more Apocolyptic books? I like that kkind of stuff, With maybe nuclear fallout, or zombies. I enjoy a good read like that 😉

  3. Isaac says:

    I love your book!!!!!!!

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