Life As We Knew It - asteroid catastrophe young adult novel

Last month I told my 15-year-old daughter Sarina about The Last Policeman, a detective novel that takes place in the final months before a catastrophic asteroid is about to collide with Earth. She said it sounded interesting and told me I should read a young adult novel she loved called Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. She said that once she started reading it, it was hard for her to put down. On her recommendation I got it (actually, I listened to the unabridged audiobook version.)

Told through the journal entries of 16-year-old Miranda, a high school sophomore in Pennsylvania, Life As We Knew It describes how Miranda and her family deal with the devastating climactic and social changes that occur after a large astroid hits the Moon, knocking it into a new orbit much closer to the Earth.

The ensuing tsunamis that destroy coastal cities around the world aren't immediately felt by Miranda's family, so their way of life is not hugely affected in the first couple of months following the asteroid collision. In fact, Miranda's mother even sends her younger son to baseball camp for the summer. But in time Miranda, her two brothers, and her mother begin to experience the loss of things that they used to take for granted.

The Internet goes down, and then stays down. Gasoline prices skyrocket, and eventually it becomes unavailable to anyone who can't afford black market prices. Electrical service is spotty and stays off for days at a time. Water service shuts down, and water wells dry up. People who did not stockpile food when grocery stores were still open slowly starve. As the novel goes one, things get even worse.

This could've been an utterly depressing novel, but Miranda's appealing character makes it a thrilling read instead. She's resourceful, vulnerable, optimistic, realistic, generous, and selfish, as most teenagers are. She's a surviver. No wonder Sarina liked it so much. (It's great when your kid is old enough to recommend books to you!)

Life As We Knew It

Pfeffer has two other books in the "Last Survivors" series: The Dead and the Gone and This World We Live In.


  1. An amazing series of novels.  So satisfying to find a realistically grim and dismal YA novel.  Proves once again that the golden age of SF is between 8 and 16.

  2. Does she eat her sister’s meatloaf and then exclaim “It tastes like ashes!”

    Because that’s kind of become my yard stick on astral body collision disaster movies.

  3. It was a really great book.

    I read it a few winters ago, and would always be reading it on the train to work with the snow billowing outside, and each time I would look up a half-hour later completely confused that there was still electricity outside and that the world wasn’t ending.

    Everyone else I know who read it had the exact same reaction. One woman said she had to read it in a hot bath to keep the coldness away, but as she would read her bath would get colder and colder, and she’d be shivering in spite of herself, certain that endless winter was setting in.

  4. It’s fun to read the 1-star reviews. Apparently, Conservatives aren’t fond of the book, to put it mildly. Teehee. Think I’ll buy it right now.

  5. My 11-year old just read this for a class project. How cool is her middle school? We swap YA fiction all the time. I love learning from my kids.

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