Thursday, July 28, 2011

Before the Blog (2): The Last Survivors Trilogy by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Some of you already know this, but I've started a weekly meme called "Before the Blog". In short, it's a place to review books you read and loved before you began blogging about them. Basically, you choose a book each week, then answer the following three questions,and post your review.   Then you can add your post to the little Mr. Linky widget below, and voila!

Why did you choose this book? 
When did you read this book?
Who would you recommend this book to?

For more info, see my 1st BtB post by clicking this LINK. As for this week's post, I'm actually going to review a trilogy that I loved. I know many of you have read this series, but I found out after one of my WoW posts, featuring a book by the same author, that A LOT of my followers haven't. 

The Last Survivors Trilogy by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books

The three books in the trilogy are Life As We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, and This World We Live In. It doesn't really matter which of the first two books you read first, since they are written by different people, about the same event. The third book, however, unites their stories, and should be read last. For the sake of this post, I will list them in order of publication. But first, the questions...

Why did you choose this trilogy?
Simply? I loved it. Not because it has a lot of warm-fluffy-feel-good value, but because it reaches deep into the reader and you can't help but feel as you're reading. I love books that evoke true emotion.

When did you read these books?
I've read them all at least twice. I first read Life As We Knew It in June of 2010, The Dead and the Gone in July of 2010, and This World We Live In in September of 2010.

Who would you recommend this book to?
Just about anyone. It's one of those books that kind of reaches across genres and demographics. People who like Dystopia/Post-Apocalyptic reads would like this, for sure, but I wouldn't place limits. My husband, who mostly reads business and politics related books, liked Life As We Knew It. My daughter was enthralled, and is typically a reader of girly-fluff. Of the middle schoolers I recommended this to, all loved it, and their interests definitely span a wide range.
Life As We Knew It
Publication Date: October 1st, 2006

Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.
Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all--hope--in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)
This is book one in the trilogy. I picked it up because a friend of mine said, "Have you read this? It's so good!". I bought it and let in sit on my shelf for awhile... Then a Goodreads challenge came about that required a mostly blue cover, and this book fit the bill. I read it in less than a day. I was sucked it from the first page. This is definitely a doomsday type story, but it's not entirely depressing, and is still 100% worth the emotions it evokes. It's a book that will stay with you long after you read it. It's both horrifying and beautiful.

The story is told through Miranda Day's journal entries over the course of one year. She starts out as a rather typical self-absorbed teenage girl, but as the story progresses, she becomes an entirely different person. That alone makes the book very good, but there is so much more to it. The most fascinating and scary part to it is the fact that this event- the moon being knocked closer to earth by an asteroid- is totally plausible. It really makes you think about what would happen if something like that were to happen. We all like to think that we would be prepared for a disaster of some sort; that we would survive and that things would improve quickly after such a thing. This book makes you think about all of the things that you wouldn't normally think about, and it's while frightening, it's also very eye-opening. We are so reliant on modern conveniences, that we can't even begin to plan for life without them (and I'm not even referring to the internet and cell phones, but things like running water, heat, mail service). Even though it's fiction, it makes you grateful for all that you have. (And it makes you want to start stockpiling food, water, vodka, propane, antibiotics, batteries, etc.)

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Dead and the Gone
Publication Date: January 1st, 2008

Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its brutal but hopeful look at an apocalyptic event--an asteroid hitting the moon, setting off a tailspin of horrific climate changes. Now this harrowing companion novel examines the same events as they unfold in New York City, revealed through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican Alex Morales. When Alex's parents disappear in the aftermath of tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland, and food and aid dwindle.
With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

This is the second book in the trilogy, although, as I mentioned earlier, they can be read in either order. Hands down, this book was my favorite of the three. For starters, I liked Alex a lot more than I liked Miranda. This book covers the same timeframe as Life As We Knew It, beginning right before the asteroid hits the moon, and ending exactly one year later, but I feel like Susan Beth Pfeffer really gets her groove on in this book. It was fantastic. I liked it for many of the same reasons I liked the first book, but I liked it so much better. While Miranda lived in rural Pennsylvania, Alex lives in NYC. Miranda had her mother and brothers for guidance and morale. Alex's parents were not home when the event occurred, leaving him to be the one to provide for his two younger sisters. I think Alex's story was much more gut-wrenching. He went through so much more than Miranda did on almost every level. He lost so much, but his spirit stayed strong. He was truly selfless, while at the same time incredibly resourceful and practical. It left me with the same types of feelings- grateful for what I have, but with a need to have some sort of plan in case of some disaster like this. It just feels that real when you're reading it...

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This World We Live In
Publication Date: May 21st, 2010

It’s been a year since a meteor collided with the moon, catastrophically altering the earth’s climate. For Miranda Evans, life as she knew it no longer exists. Her friends and neighbors are dead, the landscape is frozen, and food is increasingly scarce. The struggle to survive intensifies when Miranda’s father and stepmother arrive with a baby and three strangers in tow. One of the newcomers is Alex Morales, and as Miranda’s complicated feelings for him turn to love, his plans for his future thwart their relationship. Then a devastating tornado hits the town of Howell, and Miranda makes a decision that will change their lives forever.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

This was my least favorite of the three books, but I still give it huge acclaim. I think Susan Beth Pfeffer was brilliant to bring the characters we got to know in the first two books together in the third book. Not only does it bring the story of survival to new levels, but it also shows new sides to people we thought we knew. I don't want to give anything away, so I'm not going to delve into the story any more than Goodreads did, but I will tell you that there is no resolution. No answers tied up neatly with a bow. Sorry, that's not the way life works, and if this series has any underlying message at at all, it's that. This book was as fantastic and horrifying as the first two, and much like the first two, it will be difficult, if not impossible for you to put down. You won't want it to be over because you will want to know what happens to the people whose lives you've become invested in, but you will be left feeling like Pfeffer didn't sell out for the sake of an ending....

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Grade Level Recommendation: This holds true for most YA books in some sense, but in this case, it really does depend on the kid. This series is graphic. Horrible things happen in the world. Lots of people die; some die under awful circumstances. Hope does not abound. And it's all terrifyingly realistic; plausible. There's not a lot of standard issue "inappropriate content" such as language, violence, or sex, but for kids who have a lot of fears or anxiety to begin with, this series could be a bad idea. The "average" kid (as if there were such a thing), could probably handle this by 5th or 6th grade (ages 10 or 11). I let my daughter read it at the end of 4th grade because I felt she could use a few grateful-what-I-have feelings. My neighbor felt like her 6th grader wasn't ready for it because she thought it would scare the crap out of him. This is a series that I think parents of kids under the age of about 14 (9th grade), should either read before or alongside their kids (the first book, at least) to gauge their reactions and talk about it, if necessary.

1 comment:

  1. I've read the first 2 and plan to read the 3rd. I got started when the first one was assigned for Book Club. I agree with you that I liked the 2nd one better. And also that it is not necessary to read the 1st before reading the 2nd. I blogged about it here if you are interested.


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