Thursday, April 15, 2010
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