Life as We Knew It

Life As We Knew It
by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Publishing Information: Harcourt: Orlando, Fla., 2006
ISBN: 0152058265 / 0739336835 (Audio)
Pages: 352 p.
Ages: 12 & Up

When Miranda first hears the warnings that a meteor is headed on a collision path with the moon, they just sound like an excuse for extra homework assignments. But her disbelief turns to fear in a split second as the entire world witnesses a lunar impact that knocks the moon closer in orbit, catastrophically altering the earth's climate. Everything else in Miranda's life fades away as supermarkets run out of food, gas goes up to more than ten dollars a gallon, and school is closed indefinitely. But what Miranda and her family don't realize is that the worst is yet to come. (From book jacket cover)

Book Talk:
Miranda is excited, and not just her, but everyone on the whole planet is excited. An asteroid is headed right for the moon and will hit on May 18th. The whole town is out in front of their houses with telescopes and binoculars. When it hits, everyone cheers, and then it gets deathly quiet. A woman screams and people start yelling. The moon was no longer a half-moon anymore. It was tilted and wrong and it started getting larger and larger until it was smack in the middle of the sky, way too big, way too visible. It was pushed out of its orbit and it wasn't benign anymore but terrifying and panic filled the air. Everyone rushed home to their phones and TV's. The cell phones were out and the telephone lines were erratic. TV reception also was fuzzy but finally came through and the news was horrible. There were reports of widespread tsunamis because of the tides. There was massive flooding all over the eastern seaboard. Tidal waves twenty feet or higher in New York City. All power was lost, and the Statue of Liberty was washed out to sea. Cape Cod was completely submerged and the barrier islands off the Carolina coast ... just gone. Casualties on the eastern seaboard are in the hundreds of thousands. The Pacific Coast is also affected. But those folks who were inland were safe.

But that was day one, and just the beginning. Disaster after disaster, chaos and fear gripped the world. Electricity gone - climate changed, food gone, and no one, no one was safe anymore.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Family Relationships
Natural Disasters

Awards & Reviews:
Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, 2007
Booklist Editor's Choice: Books for Youth - Older Readers Category, 2006
Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices
Junior Library Guild Premier Selection , 2006
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2007

Booklist, September 1, 2006, p.42 (Starred Review)
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2006
Publishers Weekly, October 16, 2006, pp.64 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, October 2006, p.132

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. What was the first major catastrophe that happened when the moon was knocked out of its orbit?
  2. What happened to Rhode Island? If you managed to escape, where would you go? Why?
  3. What were some of the kids first reactions in school the next day? How do you think you would have felt?
  4. Miranda's Mom exhibited foresight in dealing with the seriousness of the situation. List all the things she did to increase her family's chances of survival.
  5. In the first week after the asteroid hit, what kept happening that changed the way everyone went about their daily lives? Why is electricity such an essential utility? What do you think is the worst thing to happen if there is no electricity? Why?
  6. What happened to the climate during the summer? What did Miranda and her family do to cope? How did Mom's foresight help in this situation?
  7. What other disasters besides the tsunamis began to occur? What were the consequences to the planet and it's people?
  8. Do you think Dad and Lisa made it to Colorado? Why or why not?
  9. Miranda's family was isolated from the community during the winter. In what ways was this both good and bad? What was the decision that Miranda faced at the end of the book?
  10. What do you think you would have done in that same situation?

Curriculum Tie-Ins:
Science and Literature: Can be used with an integrated unit with earth science, space, and literature. Unit may include research on the various natural disasters for science and library. Whole class reading of the book for ELA tying in writing skills with their own journal entries. Synthesize data from book and research by having students team up from a different geographical location; e.g. one is from the desert area, another from pacific islands, another from Scandinavia, etc. They would then have to describe how they would survive an event like this, encompassing food, shelter, communication.

Or students could be given the question: Could a natural disaster devastate the U.S.? Team up, Answer - How and where? What would be the impact? How to survive?  

Related Websites:
Natural Disasters 

Disaster Preparedness:,1082,0_501_,00.html

The Big Empty by J.B Stevens, 2004
Paradice City by J.B Stevens, 2004
Dark Water Rising by Marian Hale, 2006

Desolation Angels by J.B Stevens, 2004
No Exit by J.B Stevens, 2004
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, 2003
The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau, 2004
The Prophet of Yonwood, byJeanne DuPrau, 2006
The Giver by Lois Lowry, 1993
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, 2000
(A 2001 RITBA Nominee)
The Messenger by Lois Lowry, 2004
Green Angel by Alice Hoffman, 2003
Hole in the Sky by Pete Hautman, 2001
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, 2004
Into the Firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco, 1906 by Deborah Hopkinson, 2006
The Kindling, by Jennifer Armstrong & Nancy Butcher
The Keepers of the Flame, by Jennifer Armstrong & Nancy Butcher
The Kiln, by Jennifer Armstrong & Nancy Butcher
On the Beach by Neville Shute, 1957
Phoenix Rising by Karen Hesse, 1994
Plauge by Jean Ure, 1991
Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden, 1995
The Dead of Night by John Marsden, 1997
A Killing Frost by John Marsden, 1998
Darkness, Be My Friend by John Marsden, 1999
Burning for Revenge by John Marsden, 2000
The Night is For Hunting by John Marsden, 2001
The Other Side of Dawn by John Marsden, 2002
While I Live by John Marsden, 2007
Z for Zachariah by Robert O'Brien, 1975

Other Books by the Author:
Just Morgan, 1970
Better Than All Right, 1972
Rainbows & Fireworks, 1973
The Beauty Queen, 1974
Whatever Words You Want to Hear, 1974
Marly the Kid, 1975
Kid Power, 1977
Awful Evelina, 1979
Starring Peter and Leigh, 1979
About David, 1980
Just Between Us, 1980
What Do You Do When Your Mouth Won't Open, 1981
A Matter of Principle, 1982
Starting with Melodie, 1982
Courage, Dana, 1983
Fantasy Summer, 1984
Kid Power Strikes Back, 1984
Truth or Dare, 1984
The Friendship Pact, 1986
Getting Even, 1986
The Year Without Michael, 1987
Evvie at Sixteen, 1988
Rewind to Yesterday, 1988
Thea at Sixteen, 1988
Turning Thirteen, 1988
Dear Dad, Love Laurie, 1989
Future Forward, 1989
Head of the Class, 1989
Sybil at Sixteen, 1989
April Upstairs, 1990
Darcy Downstairs, 1990
Meg at Sixteen, 1990
Most Precious Blood, 1991
Twin Surprises, 1991
Family of Strangers, 1992
Twin Troubles, 1992
Make Believe, 1993
The Riddle Streak, 1993
The Ring of Truth, 1993
Sara Kate, Superkid, 1994
Twice Taken, 1994
Nobody's Daughter, 1995
Sara Kate Saves the World, 1995
The Pizza Puzzle, 1996
The Trouble with Wishes, 1996
Amy's Story, 1997
Beth's Story, 1997
Jo's Story, 1997
Justice for Emily, 1997
Meg's Story, 1997
Amy Makes a Friend, 1998
Beth Makes a Friend, 1998
Christmas Dreams: Four Stories, 1998
Devil's Den, 1998
Jo Makes a Friend, 1998
Meg Makes a Friend, 1998
Birthday Wishes: Four Stories, 1999
A Gift for Amy, 1999
A Gift for Beth, 1999
A Gift for Jo, 1999
A Gift for Meg, 1999
Ghostly Tales: Four Stories, 2000
Revenge of the Aztecs, 2000

About the Author:
Susan Beth Pfeffer was born in New York City in 1948. She grew up in the city and its nearby suburbs and spent summers in the Catskill Mountains. When she was six her father wrote and published a book on constitutional law, and Pfeffer decided that she, too, wanted to be a writer. That year she wrote her first story, about the love between an Oreo cookie and a pair of scissors. However, it wasn't until 1970 that her first book, Just Morgan, was published. She wrote it during her last semester at New York University; since then, she has been a full-time writer for young people.

She has won numerous awards and citations for her work, which range from picture books to middle-grade and young-adult novels, and include both contemporary and historical fiction. She is also the author of the popular Portraits of Little Women series for grades 3-6, and has written a book for adults on writing for children.

To date, she has written more than 60 books. About David was awarded the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award. The Year Without Michael is an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and winner of the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award; it was also named by the American Library Association as one of the hundred best books for teenagers written between 1968-1993. 

When she is not working, she enjoys watching movies, both new and old, and collecting movie memorabilia, reading biographies and histories, and eating foods that are bad for her. She lives in Middletown, New York, with her two cats, Alexander and Emily. (From )