Oldest Book On The Shelf Challenge: February Review-The Last Survivors (Books 2 & 3) by Susan Pfeffer

This month I decided I was going to finish a series I started way back in early 2010. I read Life as We Know It (Review Here) by Susan Beth Pfeffer after an incredibly enthusiastic review by Becky @ The Bookette … and I thought it was excellent. So why it’s taken me almost two years to read the other two books in the series I have no idea. Well it’s done now, I can tick it off the list. But I’m sad to say I almost wished I hadn’t…

The Dead and The Gone is the second book in The Last Survivors series, but rather than continue the story we get the same period from someone else’s perspective. This time it’s 17 year old New Yorker Alex.

Alex has big plans and a bright future ahead of him. Born into a poor Puerto Rican family he’s won himself a scholarship at a prestigious boys school and is a star pupil. But the day an asteroid hits the moon and knocks it closer to work, Alex’s plans are ruined. With both of his parents missing, presumed dead, he’s left to care for his two younger sisters in a world where flooding, hunger and death are the new norm.

I enjoyed this book. Not as much as Life As We Know It, but enough to be gripped to the pages and invested in the story of the Morelas family.

This book was definitely darker than than previous, more gruesome, brutal and violent but surprisingly I found it less believable. This is New York right? One of the most highly populated cities in the world. So I found the three Morelas kids isolation in an apartment block a little odd. I saw Pfeffer’s aim at showing how the rich and ‘important’ and the poor would be treat differently, but I didn’t believe they’d be so immediately forgotten about.

I also struggled with the constant religion of this book. Particularly from Alex’s sister Brianna. Her blind faith annoyed me, especially when it put herself and others in danger. Yet everyone in this book pampers her. Julie on the other hand is seen as an annoyance, a liability. Personally I’d prefer her resourcefulness and fighting spirit in the face of the Apocalypse..she was my favorite character.

I think the biggest issue was that there’s no expansion on the first book here. We don’t learn anything new, it’s just another persons version of events. I sound like I actually hated it, I didn’t. It’s still a good read, and the idea behind it is awesome.

******

The final book in the trilogy, This World We Live In, follows on from both the previous two books and the two families are now fighting for survival together.

This book made me angry. Not in the ‘isn’t life unfair’ way it should have but because after coming up with a brilliant idea and totally snaring me into this world Susan Pfeffer clearly couldn’t be bothered with it any more. This very short book is a disappointing end to the trilogy and leaves more questions than answers.

Firstly, the characters and world never progress. By the end they’re still helpless, at the mercy of the elements and hoping for canned food handouts. Now, I know this is an unusual and cruel world but at some point the surviving humans have to move on and plan for a brighter future surely? This just doesn’t happen.

Secondly it’s like it was skim written. There’s absolutely no depth at all. And you thought you knew insta-love? You’ve seen nothing until you see Alex and Miranda’s relationship. Seriously. Everything is just rushed. The ending left me convinced there’d be an eventual fourth book in the series, but after investigating I found an article on Susan Pfeffer’s blog stating there wouldn’t be. So now I’m also mad I won’t ever get to see how this world will end up.

This series started off so well. I was blown away by the first book in the series. By the third book I was questioning whether it had actually been as good as I remembered after all. I had high hopes and felt bitterly let down, more so that I feel the series will be forever unfinished. I think I could’ve quite happily left after book two and would still recommend those books, but if you never get round to the third, then in all honesty you won’t have missed much.

*****
So February wasn’t a great month for oldest books on the shelf. Hopefully March will be better.
*If you want to share your Oldest Books On the Shelves reads, leave a link to your review here so I can check them out*

Book review: Life As we Knew It by Susan Pfeffer

It’s almost the end of Miranda’s sophomore year in high school, and her journal reflects the busy life of a typical teenager: conversations with friends, fights with mom, and fervent hopes for a driver’s license. When Miranda first begins hearing the reports of a meteor on a collision course with the moon, it hardly seems worth a mention in her diary. But after the meteor hits, pushing the moon off its axis and causing worldwide earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, all the things Miranda used to take for granted begin to disappear. Food and gas shortages, along with extreme weather changes, come to her small Pennsylvania town; and Miranda’s voice is by turns petulant, angry, and finally resigned, as her family is forced to make tough choices while they consider their increasingly limited options. Yet even as suspicious neighbors stockpile food in anticipation of a looming winter without heat or electricity, Miranda knows that that her future is still hers to decide even if life as she knew it is over. (From Goodreads.com)


When Becky @ The Bookette wrote a fantastic review of this book and told me in a Twitter exchange that it’s a must read, I took her word for it. One thing I’ve learned since I discovered Becky’s blog is if she says a book is a good ‘un, then she is likely right (seriously, if you haven’t visited her yet, then you really must!). Once again she was absolutely spot on and I was glued to this book from beginning to end.

Life as We Knew It is a terrifying account of survival through the eyes of 15 year-old Miranda as she writes in her diary. A fairly ordinary girl whose main concerns are school, friends and a crush on a local ice skating star, until an asteroid strikes the moon and pushes it closer to earth. With the world consumed by tidal waves, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, vast amounts of the population are wiped out and the subsequent loss of electricity, gas, water and food, each day becomes a fight for survival against starvation and disease.

The most horrifying aspect of this book is just how possible the situation is. A massive natural disaster could happen at anytime, we seem to be seeing them increasingly in recent years and one on such a gigantic worldwide scale as in Life As we Knew isn’t all that difficult to believe in. Susan Pfeffer drives home just how vulnerable and unprepared we really are once the things we rely on daily are gone and it is truly the stuff of nightmares. It also makes the recent disruption to air traffic from Volcanic Ash seem nothing more than a slight inconvenience, as daylight is completely lost to the stuff in Life As We Knew It, while also giving it a more sinister and worrying presence in my mind.

I also found the speed with which civilized society broke down shocking, but again not hard to imagine. I think possibly one of the points Pfeffer may have been making is how in our isolated, busy and selfish lives we have lost the ability to pull together as a community. I like to believe that this isn’t true, that we would work together and help each other. However I also can’t help but think about an experience we had when my daughter was just a few weeks old. Our City was badly flooded and we lost electricity for two whole days and i was cut off from my family both by road and phone. Living in a neighbourhood where people kept themselves to themselves and rarely even glimpsed the people living in the houses next to us, we didn’t see a soul for those two days. We sat wrapped in quilts, huddled around a couple of candles and waited. It was surreal, it felt like we were the only ones left in the world. Looking back, why didn’t we call on our neighbours? Why did no-one check on us? Two days later everything was back to normal, but reading Life As We Knew it reminded me about how isolating that experience was. I also wonder if I was in Miranda’s mother’s position would I be the same as she? Would I prefer not to think if people were starving just down the road, because offering food to them could mean my own child would run out of food a day earlier? I honestly don’t know. I both hated and respected the mother as she became selfish and ferocious in her quest to protect her family.

The whole book is written as a diary from 15 year-old Miranda and yet again was completely realistic. To begin with Miranda isn’t even interested in the excitement leading up to the underestimated impact, in fact she’s pretty fed up about it because of all the extra homework heaped on her to do with the moon. Afterwards, she doesn’t suddenly become a hero, she remains a young girl and thus is angry, resentful, moody and at times plain selfish. Sometimes, some of the more technical details of their survival is a little sketchy, but to me it seems right that a fifteen year old girl would document her resentment at missing prom and having her first relationship thwarted before it even begins. This becomes not just a story of survival, but a girls struggle to come of age and define herself when everything she has ever expected has been snatched away.

Life As We Knew it is a truly amazing book and one which I just couldn’t stop reading. I began on a Sunday afternoon and didn’t stop until the early hours of Monday morning, having to literally tear myself away to do the things I needed to do. It’s a story that I’m still thinking about, days after finishing and will stay with me for a long time. My one complaint is that it ends rather abruptly and I was left desperately wanting to know more. Thankfully there are another two books in The Last Survivors series (the Dead And The Gone and This world We live In) and I immediately ordered them.

Huge thanks to Becky for introducing me to this series.