Friday, February 19, 2016

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Well, I read this book in 2 days.

It's a young adult novel, so it should go by for me quicker. I know some readers leave YA books behind, but I love the change in pace. Sometimes all we need is a good story that can be easily consumed. However, this series is not "brainless." Even though it's an easy read, it's so prevalent and smart in exploring environment, family and survival themes through the lens of someone that is easily relatable as Miranda.

What I also find interesting about this series of books is that they are more like companion novels, instead of sequential books. Obviously the first book, Life as We Knew It, should be read first, but the second, third and fourth book do not need to be read in order. I just so happened to read the third book second. I always wished that authors did more "world" building companion books, and I wonder how she'll utilize other characters from the first book in other stories.

In this book, Pfeffer picks up exactly where she left off with Miranda and her family. At the end of the last book, they were saved and given food from the government. Even though it seems like they were saved, the reader finds themselves asking the question, "Are they ever really saved?" Even though the immediate crisis of food is solved, Miranda and her family's fear changed from having enough food to survive to whether or not the food bags will be delivered that Sunday.

What I also love about this book is that Pfeffer introduced other characters in a seamless way and uses it to explore this dark, post-apocalyptic universe she created. She creates conflicts using man v. nature, and even man v. supernatural, which, is a good change of pace from "The Chosen One" and "Evil Empire" narrative. Even when people show darker sides of themselves, it's never in black and white, which is a realistic approach to humanity in the face of dire circumstances.

I think my favorite parts of the book is the stark contrast between Matt, Miranda and their Mother. Matt comes home married, and Miranda desires to be considered more of a grown up instead of a child. Their mother resist, and is in denial about the state of their world. Of course it's an allegory of the transition from teenager to adult, but the shift of the moon pushes the transition much quickly and much sooner than their Mom wanted and was ready for. With the arrival of other people in their lives, Mom is no longer the reigning matriarch of their little society, and has to contend with a democracy rather than a dictatorship.

Finally, Pfeffer exploring the relationship between Alex and Miranda. Miranda falls in love with him, despite Matt's objections and his insistence that he'll be leaving with Julia to become a monk. The reader questions whether Miranda loves him because he's just there and she has no idea what the future holds, or because she truly has feelings for him.  I wonder if Pfeiffer will return to Miranda's viewpoint in later books. I am interested to see if they stay together.

My only dissatisfaction with the novel is that Charlie was just a side character. I wanted to know more about Charlie and his backstory, but I guess in this future world, he's there to demonstrate that family isn't just blood, but who you choose to love and care about. When Charlie came to the house, I wondered if Pfeiffer was going to pair up Miranda with the "older, wiser" man. It's still YA, but it would have been interesting to explore due to the themes of survival and the reaction of her parents.

Overall, I'm still in on this book series. I have 2 more books to go. I'm not as terrified reading this as I was the first book, but I'm sure the terror is just deeply suppressed waiting to be utilized in a nightmare. I wonder where Pfeiffer will go next in the series. 

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