Thursday, April 15, 2010

This World We Live In - Susan Beth Pfeffer


The happy day arrived just a few days ago, when Mr. Library Courier Man delivered this little beauty to our door. Alas, the third and final installment of The Last Survivors series! If you haven't heard of this series (ahem, translated as "you have not been reading my blog loyally!) I will catch you up. In the first book, Life as We Knew It, we experience an Armageddon of sorts through the eyes of 16-year-old Miranda (who lives in rural Pennsylvania) when an asteroid hits the moon and creates upheaval on earth. Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, famine, disease, etc. In the second book, The Dead and the Gone, we see the same event from the perspective of 17-year-old Alex Morales, who lives in Brooklyn NY. In both books, families grow close and the teens grow up overnight, learning to survive the elements, losing the ones they love, and discovering their ability to find happiness in unlikely places and in the smallest things.

I don't think I'm spoiling much by telling you that in the third installment, the characters from the first two books converge, and is narrated again by Miranda through her diary. Which is very exciting in the hearts of my daughter and I. We were both invested in Miranda, Alex and their families. It is satisfying to learn what happens next.

Except that what happens next is really no bed of roses. There is more hardship to come, I'm afraid to say, and is devastating to watch. Haven't these people suffered enough? Adversely, Pfeffer brightens things up a bit with some well-placed love interests, and with the message that "family" can be defined in more ways than one. Religion continues to play a vital role in some of the characters' strength to go on. Hang onto those little shards of hope, my reading friends - you will need them.

The ending is not tied up with a pretty red ribbon, which I greatly respect. We are left to imagine how things might be resolved at the ground level, in Alex and Miranda's microcosm. I have firm opinions on that; I'm sure you're shocked. From a macro, total-earth level, we get no answers either. One has to hold onto the belief that humanity will persevere, and will slowly rise from the ashes. I believe that Pfeffer could easily add on another book or two, and there would be plenty of material to work with.

My daughter Emma (who is 12, just for reference) and I both loved this series. It isn't sugar-coated - it is the end of the world, after all! For the overly sensitive tween or teen, the images of death could be disturbing for them. But it does have excellent life lessons embedded in the story. There is no foul language, and although there are teenage hormones bouncing around here and there, it is fairly chaste. I will mention that Miranda's last action, before she is left to the fate we create for her in our minds, is quite controversial. It got a raised eyebrow out of me, but I was not offended and I did not disagree (Emma was in the opposing corner however). It was a gutsy and potentially polarizing move on the part of the author.

So just to prevent any panic attacks, stock up on canned goods, bottled water, get practiced up on your wood-chopping skills, and grab these endearing, quick reads. You won't be sorry you did.

Emma: 4 out of 5 stars

Me: 4 out of 5 stars

17 comments:

Nymeth said...

I really need to get over my silly fear of reading books 2 and 3 in this series. But just in case, I think I WILL stock up on canned goods first ;)

Amy said...

I'm so glad you liked it! I'm also glad that the ending wasn't tied up with a nice little bow

caite said...

if you read my review of the first...and yes, I know you did Sandy...and my comment on the second, you know I will most likely not be reading this one. For me, too big on the depressing and too short on the life lessons. Even if all the rest of you loved it..lol

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Did you see today that the volcanic ash from Iceland and resulting dark skies caused the airports in Europe to close? I said to my husband, WOW, just like in the books! And I find myself saying that a lot lately!!!

Zibilee said...

Isn't it wonderful that the library drops books off right to your door? I find it amazing! Even though these are dark reads, I am really interested in trying them, and know that the third book will be great for my kids, who quickly blew through the other two. My daughter in particular, will be glad that Miranda is back. It's funny, she mentioned these books to me a couple of weeks ago, and told me that they were great, and I just had to read them. Then I hop over here and hear the same. I guess great minds think alike. Thanks for the wonderful review! I am glad you loved the books so much!

Beth F said...

Skimmed it just quick enough to see you and your daughter liked it. I have the first two books here and I hope to get to them this summer (haaaaaaaaaaa)

Ti said...

Wait a second! You're telling me that your library delivers books to your door??? They do not do this in California. Hello!

I am halfway through with this one so I skimmed your review a bit but I love the series and with all the earthquakes the world has been hit with and now a volcano erupting...one has to wonder what the heck is going on with our world.

bermudaonion said...

I was going to say the same thing as Ti - does your library actually deliver books to you?

It's so much fun when you can share books with your children and both love them!

Carrie K. said...

I really hope she continues the story, but will be okay if she doesn't. Yes, that final act was so heart-breaking - and brave of the author to go there. Good, good books.

Julie P. said...

You have already sold me on these. I just need to get them from my library!

Kim said...

I read Life when it came out years ago and still haven't recovered, the stark contrast between normal life one day and how everything can turn upside down the next is a tough read for me. I had a big problem with the gratuitous religion bashing in Life and am happy to hear that this book takes a different track.

Iliana said...

I'm sort of skimming through your reviews of these series books as I still haven't read the first one! I know, must get these quick :)

Kathleen said...

Sounds like a good series. I have to be in the mood to read about death and end of the world stuff (kind of ironic coming from a true crime junkie like me). It's really cool that you and your daughter read these together too!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

I am a big fan of novels with not-so-trite endings....I will indeed be reading this series, I do so promise!

Jenners said...

I suppose I shall read this at some point but I'm more hung up on the fact that the library delivers books to your door????? Did I read that right????

Anna said...

Well now you've made me curious about the ending! I'll have to give these a try. I bet my husband would enjoy these, as he's all about those disaster movies.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Melissa M said...

I don't usually do the end of the world books, but I do like that the ending wasn't too neat. I like a few things to be left to the imagination.