Life As We Knew It


Susan Beth Pfeffer

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Miranda’s diary begins like any typical teenage girl’s with entries about her grades, friends, fights with her mother, her new step-sibling-to-be, and her crush on a local Olympic-caliber skater. Oh, and the meteor. Scientists have been talking of nothing else for weeks, and Miranda’s teachers at the local high school have piled on homework in anticipation. The meteor is going to collide with the moon.

Sitting on their lawn chairs waiting for the big event, nobody’s worried. They should have been. The Meteor is not only bigger than expected, it hits with much more force than expected. It knocks the moon out of orbit.

Is that really significant? You bet it is. It’s catastrophic. Tsunamis hit both coasts, causing massive flooding. The Statue of Liberty is washed out to sea. Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, the barrier islands off the Carolinas, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Alaska…all gone. Devastation is happening all over the world. Nobody knows how bad it’s going to get, but Miranda's mother suspects it's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. If it gets better. At the store Miranda and her family fill cart after cart with canned and boxed foods, cat food, kitty litter, toilet paper, and anything and everything they think they could possibly use. They have no way of knowing how long the situation will last or how bad it will get.

How bad does it get? Communication networks break down. It's next to impossible to make or receive phone calls. Mail is disrupted. Electricity is available only an hour or two a day. Soon, it's on for only minutes a day, and then not at all. With no electricity, no mail, no phone, no television, and no internet, there's no way to get any news at all. They are completely isolated. The environmental devastation continues. After the tidal waves come the earthquakes. Then volcanoes begin to erupt, even ones that were dormant. So much ash is thrown into the air that the sun is completely blocked. The first hard frost comes in August. By September, the average daily high is 23 degrees. By October, it's below zero. There’s no heat and very little food. To make a bad situation worse, people are getting sick, and there are few doctors and even less medicine.

In her diary, Miranda wonders how they can possibly survive. The situation is desperate. If only one person in her family can survive, who should it be? It’s time to choose. She longs for life as she knew it, but she has to deal with life as it is, for as long as she possibly can. How long will that be?

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. What was the first major effect the moon being knocked out of orbit? How did that effect the world?
  2. How did people react initially to the disasters? How would you have felt going to school the next day?
  3. Why was the climate so dramatically different? What impact did that have on peoples chances for survival?
  4. What did Miranda's mom do right away that increased their chances of survival?
  5. Do you think Miranda's dad and lisa made it to colorado?
  6. Why is it so important for Miranda to continue swimming after the disaster?
  7. Do you think that Miranda really did ice skate with Brendan on the frozen pond?
  8. Which of the things that Miranda has to do without do you think would be the hardest for you to live without? Why?
  9. This natural disaster is very extreme: is there any part of what happens that seems realistic?

If you liked this book, try

  • How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
  • The Kindling by Jennifer Armstrong and Nancy Butcher
  • Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden
  • The Big Empty by J. B. Stephens
  • Apocalypse by Tim Bowler
  • Fever, 1783 by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Dead and The Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • Dark Water Rising by Marian Hale
  • Z For Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.