Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Last Survivors Series by Susan Beth Pfeffer

I have decided to combine my reviews of the three novels so far in the Last Survivors Series by Susan Beth Pfeffer- Life As We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, and This World We Live In- into one review. However I am vague enough that you are able to read the complete review without spoiling any of the novels.

Life As We Knew It is the perfect title for a book where the world ends. Well not quite, but a meteor does hit the moon and while everyone thinks it's not going to be a big deal, but that turns out to be far from the truth. The tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that follow are only the beginning, all chronicled in the diary of a teenage girl named Miranda who struggles for survival along with her mother and two brothers in the face of limited food and water and an increasingly destructive outside world.

Life As We Knew It is the kind of book that envelops the reader, taking you into a world that one instant looks exactly like your own before turning it on its head in an incredibly terrifying and breath-taking away. What made the novel so unique was how you get to see the damage unfold, making it different than many post-apocalyptic novels, like Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari, which usually begin long after the destruction has begun.

With Life As We Knew It Pfeffer tells a story that is both horrible and utterly human, about what good people will do under desperate circumstances- especially when it comes to family. Miranda, like most of her family, are less interesting as characters than they are as a mechanism for telling a riveting tale that will keep your heart pounding till the last page. However, in a way that works, because it is instantly clear to the reader that they could be anyone and that is what makes it scariest of all.

The incredibly intense feeling that Life As We Knew It left in me was why I was so excited to pick up its sequel, The Dead and the Gone, only to find out that the book is actually told over a similar period of time from a different perspective that doesn't involve Miranda and her family at all. Instead, it is the story of Alex, a Puerto Rican teenage Catholic boy living in New York City with his two young sisters and whose parents don't come home when the meteor hits. Forced to care for them under increasingly worse circumstances, Alex struggles for their survival as well as having to decide whether or not to leave the city- and risk never seeing his parents again- or stay, and risk all three of their lives.

Unlike its prequel, The Dead and the Gone is written in the third person and it's not a format I enjoyed as much. Possibly this has something to do with audiobook narrators, as I didn't particularly enjoy the reader for this book in the series, but mostly I think it is a result of the lack of tension felt from that perspective. With Miranda's story, I constantly felt on edge about what was going to happen next, but possibly because the reader already had a good idea about the environmental disasters going on from the first book, I just didn't feel the same excitement for this story.

The Dead and the Gone is also an incredibly religious story in comparison to its predecessor, and in a way I found that made it less accessible and universal. It also means that Alex faces some moral dilemmas not shared by Miranda and which I wasn't entirely convinced about; like breaking into the apartment of a tenant that has gone on holiday and is clearly not coming back, when you have no food to feed your family. Ultimately, Alex just isn't relateable in the same way that Miranda was and despite being so excited for The Dead and the Gone, I just wanted more from this book and unfortunately the longer I let it settle in and percolate, the more dissatisfied I feel with it.

The original Last Survivors Trilogy- which is now supposed to be expanded on- finishes with This World We Live In, a novel once again from Miranda's diary perspective, but which brings the characters from the first two books together when Alex is among a group of people who show up at Miranda's family's doorstep. Unfortunately, I found This World We Live In to be an incredibly disappointing finale in a way that left me regretting having read past Life As We Knew It, which ended quite satisfactorily, in the trilogy; although I must admit I am hopeful enough, and these books are quick enough reads, that I would likely pick up a future addition to the series.

Most of my issues with the novel would contain important spoilers, but basically Alex comes across as pretty unlikable which made me not particularly care how things turned out for him, and the majority of the characters seem to go a bit crazy by the end of the book. For a book where most of the time things seem to be getting better, it is like all of a sudden the author changed her mind and threw every negative event possible at the characters (Mockingjay anyone?) I was also pretty sick of this audiobook narrator by about halfway through, as well as getting impatient with the story, so I ended up finishing my hard copy of the novel. I was really hoping to end on the same kind of high note that Last Survivors began with, and though I did appreciate the return to the diary format, This World We Live In was just not the grand finale that a series beginning with as great a book as Life As We Knew It deserves.

Life As We Knew It:
Release Date: October 1st, 2006                                                              Pages: 360
Source: Audiobook and Review Copy From Publisher                             Buy the Book
The Dead and the Gone:
Release Date: June 1st, 2008                                                                   Pages: 321
Source: Audiobook and Review Copy  From Publisher                            Buy the Book
This World We Live In:
Release Date: April 1st, 2010                                                                   Pages: 239
Source: Audiobook and Review Copy  From Publisher                            Buy the Book 

1 comment:

  1. I thought this trilogy started out as being really promising, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first book and, to a lesser extent, the second book. However, I was really disappointed in the third one, like you were. I felt like all of the characters suddenly became hateful and the plot was poorly paced. Good review!


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