Life as We Knew It (novel)

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Life As We Knew It
Pfeffer Life As We Knew It 2006.jpg
AuthorSusan Beth Pfeffer
SeriesThe Last Survivors
GenreYoung adult novel, Science fiction
PublisherHarcourt Children's Books
Publication date
October 1, 2006
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages337 pgs
ISBN0-15-205826-5 (first edition, hardcover)
LC ClassPZ7.P44855 Lif 2004
Followed byThe Dead and the Gone
This World We Live In
The Shade of the Moon 

Life As We Knew It is a young adult science fiction novel by American author Susan Beth Pfeffer, first published in 2006 by Harcourt Books. It is the first book in The Last Survivors series, followed by The Dead and the Gone. When an asteroid hits the moon and brings it closer to Earth, life in Northeastern Pennsylvania will never be the same again for Miranda and her family, with the lack of food and extreme cold major threats to their survival.


16-year-old Miranda has a normal life in Pennsylvania living with her mother and brothers. Her biggest worries are about her grades and her conflicted feelings about becoming godmother to her soon-to-be-born half-sibling, who is expected by her father and his second wife Lisa. Soon, the news becomes focused on one subject: an asteroid predicted to hit the moon. People are excited about the opportunity to witness the astronomical event, and on the night of the impact, Miranda and her family, as well as many other people on their street, go outside to witness it. However, the asteroid was denser than expected by scientists, and immediately after impact, it becomes apparent that something is very wrong. The moon has been pushed closer to the Earth by the impact.

Immediately, Miranda's life is shattered, as is the whole of society on Earth. Tsunamis and earthquakes ravage the coasts of many countries, causing millions of people to die instantly. Chaos erupts, and not long afterward, Miranda and her family are forced to go on a shopping spree before all the food runs out. Miranda's older brother Matt comes home from college to be with his family. As they are inland, they are safe from tsunamis, but as the summer goes on, another threat looms; the moon shift causes magma to be forced up to the surface, resulting in many dormant volcanoes erupting, which cover the sky in ash, causing the temperature to drop dramatically (enough for frost to appear by mid-August and for 20-degree weather by October), making it impossible for food to be grown. As things become harsher for the family, they start eating less and less to conserve food. It also becomes apparent that Laura is going without food and making other sacrifices to give Jon, who Miranda is convinced Laura considers to be the strongest of her children, a bigger chance of survival. This is often a source of resentment that causes conflict between Miranda and her mother.

Winter is an especially hard time for the family. As well as a lack of food, they must deal with a multitude of snow, a lack of running water and electricity, and a terrible illness that nearly kills all of them. However, even as they become more and more isolated as nearly everyone else is either leaving town or dying, they continue to fight for survival. At the very end, there is almost no food left. Miranda ventures into town on a last breath of hope, though in her heart she believes she will find nothing, succumb to the cold, and die. However, just as she is about to lie down and give up, she sees a yellow piece of paper which attracts her gaze. The paper leads her to town hall, where, to her shock, she discovers the mayor is giving out bags of food for every family—but there are few takers, as many people are dead and even more have no way of knowing about the program. The family is given four bags of food and promised more to come in the following weeks. With a new reason to hope that she might live on, Miranda muses on her seventeenth birthday about why she is still keeping a diary: for the people who might read it in the future, or for herself.


Miranda Evans - The protagonist of the novel, a 16-year-old girl who is attempting to survive in the new, harsh world. The novel is presented as her diary entries. She has two brothers, one of whom she is jealous of, and the other she idolises, but, most of all, she cares greatly for both of them. Her favorite hobby used to be ice skating, but prior to the book's events, she suffered an ankle injury, forcing her to stop and take up swimming. She still has a passion of ice skating, idolising Brandon, a world-famous skater from her town. Later on in the novel, she is the only one of her family to not contract a life threatening strain of flu and takes care of them throughout it.

Matt Evans- Miranda's older brother who provides and cares for the family, such as collecting firewood to keep them warm in the harsh winter. He is looked up to by his mother and siblings (Miranda "cares desperately what he thinks of her", despite denying it). Matt was studying at college before returning to his family after the event.

Jonathan "Jonny" Evans- Miranda's younger brother who has a passion for baseball, attending a baseball camp during the novel. He is secretly voted most likely to live by his family, but comes to resent this when he realizes that they are starving themselves to allow him to eat more.

Laura Evans- Miranda's mother, who was a writer. She has great care for her family, putting their lives ahead of her own often, such as starving herself so her children can have more to eat. She dates Peter during the novel. Later in the book, she sprains her ankle, rendering her immobile.

Megan- Miranda's overly-religious friend. She used to be carefree before she went to church, an interest that began when their mutual friend Becky died. She begins to starve herself at the beginning of the incident with the moon because her pastor told her that God is punishing the human race for their sins.

Sammi- another of Miranda's friends. She had been with numerous boys and fights with Megan, who believes that she leads an immoral life.

Becky- Miranda's friend whom she constantly dreams about. She died before the book begins. She was "like the glue" between Miranda, Megan, and Sammi, and when she died, they began to go separate ways.

Mrs. Wayne- Megan's mother. She worries greatly that her daughter is starving herself, as she does not share Megan's religious beliefs.

Hal/Dad- Miranda's father who separated from her mother and remarried Lisa, who is pregnant with Miranda’s soon-to-be god daughter. He cares for his children very much, bringing them a large amount of food when they stop in on their way West.

Lisa- Miranda's pregnant stepmother, whose child Miranda will be godmother to.

Peter Elliot- Miranda's mom's boyfriend, a doctor. He works throughout the events, and visits several times, sometimes bringing food with him.

Dan- a boy on Miranda's swim team, who she begins to go swimming with in the local pond, Miller's Pond, after their local indoor pool is closed.

Horton- The beloved family cat. During the novel, Miranda accidentally leaves the door open, allowing him to escape, although he returns soon after. His bond with Jonny is well known, with them spending a large part of their lives together.

Brandon- an ice skater from their town who is training for the Olympics. He is idolised by skaters worldwide. He has a fan-site dedicated to him, which Miranda went on frequently before the event. One day in the novel she surprisingly meets him at a frozen lake, where they talk and skate shortly. Although she continued returning to the lake, she never sees him again. It is assumed he died or left Howell, although it can be perceived that their meeting did not exist, and it was all in Miranda's imagination.

Mrs. Nesbitt- an elderly woman who is like family to Miranda and her family, having cared for Miranda's mother when she was a child.

George- Sammi's 40-year-old boyfriend, with whom she moves to Nashville.

Reverend Marshall- The pastor at Megan's church. By telling his congregation that God will sustain them, and behaving in a falsely caring manner, he ensures that they bring him food by way of thanks. This means that he has much more to eat than most people, something which greatly enrages Miranda.

Mayor Ford and Tom Danworth- Two men who inhabit the City Hall. They appear at the very end of the book, and tell Miranda that she can get bags of food from there.


Kirkus Reviews said that "death is a constant threat, and Pfeffer instills despair right to the end but is cognizant to provide a ray of hope with a promising conclusion. Plausible science fiction with a frighteningly realistic reminder of recent tragedies here and abroad."[1] Ilene Cooper said in her review for Booklist that "each page is filled with events both wearying and terrifying and infused with honest emotions. Pfeffer bring's cataclysmic tragedy very close."[2]


Pfeffer's book was named Young Adult Library Services Association's Best Books for Young Adults in 2007, and shortlisted for the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Science Fiction or Fantasy Book of 2007. In addition, it won the Booklist Editor's Choice Award for Books for Youth (Older Reader's Category) in 2006.[3] It was nominated for the 2009 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award and the Truman Readers Award of 2008-2009.[4]


  1. ^ "LIFE AS WE KNEW IT". Kirkus Reviews. 74 (18): 963. September 15, 2006. ISSN 0042-6598.
  2. ^ Cooper, Ilene (September 1, 2006). "Life as We Knew It". Booklist. 103 (1): 127. ISSN 0006-7385.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-11. Retrieved 2009-02-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^