Monday, March 22, 2010

This World We Live In Will Not Be The Same Without More Pfeffer In It

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for This World We Live In, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from Life As We Knew It and The Dead & The Gone. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

The apocalypse may have come for Miranda Evans and Alex Morales, but I'm not ready for their stories to end. That's why reading This World We Live In, the last installment in Susan Beth Pfeffer's excellent series, made me so sad. Somehow, I missed the memo announcing it would be the last book. *Sniff*

It's now been a year since an asteroid hit the moon, causing widespread disaster all over the world. Massive tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and disease have decimated cities and towns all over the U.S. Miranda, her mother and her two brothers have survived - barely - through a combination of hard work, strategic rationing and scavenging abandoned houses for necessities. Isolated in the small town of Howell, Pennsylvania, they're one of the few families to have emerged from the disaster intact. Still, keeping themselves alive is no easy feat. Electricity's spotty, their food supplies are dwindling, and the plumes of ash in the air make it nearly impossible to breathe.

So many are missing or dead that Miranda holds out only a very slim hope of seeing her father again. When he finally shows up on her doorstep, she's overjoyed. The only problem is he's not alone. He's brought his new wife, of course, and their baby, along with an older man named Charlie and siblings Alex and Julie Morales. Along with the problem of feeding the newcomers come issues with so many people sharing one space. A colicky baby, divorced parents, and a brother who's about ready to explode make for a tense household. Then, there's Alex. Miranda hardly knows how to act around a boy her age, it's been so long since she's even seen one. And this particular specimen is a prickly one. Even after he and Miranda grow close, Alex is determined to drop Julie off at a nearby convent then tromp off to some monastery in Ohio. He begs Miranda to come along, but can she really leave her family behind in Pennsylvania? Is there truly a safe place anywhere or is Alex just dreaming?

In one disastrous night, everything changes. Death finally visits the ragtag Evans family, Miranda's plagued with a terrible secret, and everyone's forced to make a decision about the future. If there even is a future.

As riveting as the first two books in the series, This World We Live In continues a tale that is at once horrifying, fascinating and absolutely engrossing. There's the familiar grapple for survival; the inevitable tension between people forced to live together 24/7 with no escape, no privacy, no break from worry, fear and frustration; and the heartbreaking reminiscings of a teenage girl who longs for life as it never will be again. Pfeffer offers something new in this final book - romance. The idea of love - however fragile and desperate - brings a hopeful feel to an otherwise bleak tale. Most interesting, though, are the questions Pfeffer poses by bringing Miranda's father and his band of "strangers" into the story: Where do one's moral obligations lie in a world gone mad - to family only? To those who join it, even when their motives are less than pure? What about helpless strangers? And what role does faith play when it seems pretty clear that God's gone M.I.A.?

I've mentioned before that The Last Survivors series should probably not be read by anyone who's already panicked about the end of the world. Pfeffer's books are not nice, comfortable stories with happy, bow-tied endings. They're dark, disturbing, thought-provoking and completely mesmerizing. I haven't been able to get the story off my mind since I started Life As We Knew It. Even though the series is directly responsible for several recent nightmares, I can't get enough of it. Really, I can't. C'mon, Susan Beth Pfeffer, this isn't really the end, is it?

(Readalikes: Life As We Knew It and The Dead & The Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer; the Gone series by Michael Grant)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for language, mature themes

To the FTC, with love: I bought this one off Amazon with the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger - ha ha.

Hogwarts Reading Challenge: Read this one for Astronomy class :) [+1 for HufflePuff!]

6 comments:

  1. Susan, I didn't read your review very closely as I've not read this series yet. However, I have the first book on my Kindle and hope to get to it in the next few weeks. The subject matter appeals to me and I'm trying to read a few more YA books. Thanks for sharing as always!

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  2. I'm just about to dive into The Dead and the Gone and hope to get a copy of the new one soon!!

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  3. I skimmed this so I could enjoy the next one....now off to put it on my reserve list at the library. These books ARE giving me the creeps. I find that I count my food storage, think about them when our weird weather hits and I worry about them when something in the sky just looks weird!! They have haunted me, but like a car accident, I keep "looking" and reading. Gosh, now I'm hooked again!

    How are you feeling and recovering?

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  4. Kay - You really should read the books. They're bleak, depressing, and SO good.

    Stephanie - Enjoy!

    Gaye - I feel the EXACT same way. They gave me the creeps, too, and some freaky nightmares. This genre IS just like a car wreck for me - as much as I want to look away, I can't!

    I'm feeling okay. Right now, I'm getting ready for a radioactive iodine procedure. I have to eat a low-iodine diet (yuck, yuck and double yuck) until my blood levels are low enough for it. Then, I take an iodine pill, spend 5 days in isolation, have a full-body scan, then hopefully, I will be on the mend and feeling back to normal in no time. Let's hope, anyway :)

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  5. I really hope it's not the last one, too - it seems to beg for another one to continue the story.

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  6. Ah! I just finished this book. I'm so mad at Miranda I keep telling myself they could have found a wagon in one of those garages and carried Julie along pioneer style. Bah!

    You are right though. It really isn't a very good end is it? You want to see the characters get somewhere safe and have some reassurance that they will be okay, but the ending to this book was really dark, but you're right again when you say that you can't stop reading. I had to find out what happened!

    I didn't have nightmares, but I find myself picking up extra cans of food and hiding them in the back of the pantry around the time that I read these books. I also enjoy the sunshine more. Even when it is 100 degrees and humid outside.

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