This world we Live In
Susan Beth Pfeffer
Book three of the dystopian series that began with Life as We Knew It is no less bleak than the original. Sixteen-year-old Miranda and her mother and two brothers are still struggling to survive in rural Pennsylvania. A year ago, a meteor hit the moon and knocked it off kilter, resulting in almost total devastation of the earth. Sandwiched between these books was The Dead and the Gone, which took up the same issue in New York City.
In this book, Miranda and her family get visitors: Alex Morales and his sister, Julie, from The Dead and the Gone, as well as Miranda’s father, his wife and their baby. Things haven’t changed much. Food is still in short supply. One wonders what will happen when the severely rationed canned goods, that are given out once weekly by city officials, run out. In this book, Miranda and Alex spend a lot of time scavenging the homes of the dead (and almost everyone is dead) for things such as toilet paper, aspirin, shampoo and tooth paste, books. The two teens also fall in love.
I had the sense that the author didn’t spend as much time thinking this story through as she might have. For much of the story, not a lot happens except for the continual search for food and supplies. Miranda and Alex fall in love, and then struggle over it. He keeps saying he wants to find a monastery, where he plans to become a monk and give his life to God.
Finally that issue is resolved, and Miranda struggles because she's not a Catholic. They won't consumate their love, because they need a proper marriage by a priest. Huh???? Considering that they're practically the last two teens alive on the planet, it all seemed mighty silly to me. Miranda's older brother took a "wife", Syl, within 24 hours of meeting her, without any struggle whatsoever. That scenario seemed much more plausible to me. When you are struggling to survive, and you don't know if you'll even be alive tomorrow, some beliefs and values become rather outmoded.
The story was almost over before something of driving narrative significance happened. A tornado strikes, and then the story really comes to life. Seeing the characters struggling with life and death moment by moment, instead of their “mere” and ongoing starvation, was exciting. And even after Miranda and Alex survive the tornado, Miranda makes a moral choice that might drive Alex away from her forever. But any reader with common sense knows that it shouldn't.
Each book in the series reads just fine as a stand-alone. Readers who aren’t inclined to read the entire series can choose whether they want to experience the meteor’s results in a rural area, in New York City, or, in this third book, back in Pennsylvania, with a passionate teen romance thrown in. The ending is ambiguous … is a fourth installment in the works?