Teens’ Top Ten is a â€œteen choiceâ€ list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in fifteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Support Teen Literature Day during National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year. Each day during the month of May, The Hub will feature a post about Teens’ Top Ten. Be sure to check in daily as we visit past winners and current nominees!
I’m not a fan of horror stories, or even scary suspense stories, and that goes double for movies. Even when a horror story is completely unbelievable it’s still way too scary for me. And yet….there is a certain kind of story I love that is actually quite terrifying–a post apocalyptic story. Specifically, stories of survival after the world is dramatically and suddenly changed from some sort of event, like The Day After Tomorrow (climate change), the Fire Us Trilogy by Jennifer Armstrong (a virus), Meg Rosoff’s 2005 Printz winner How I Live Now (war), S. M. Sterling’s Dies the Fire (mysterious end to all electrical/mechanical things), John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began (war), or Carla Buckley’s The Things That Keep Us Here (pandemic.) In 2007 teens voted another one of my favorites a Teens’ Top Ten choice– Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.
The cataclysmic event in this story is the moon getting knocked out of its orbit by a meteor. Here’s what I’ve learned from reading all these books–don’t stand outside watching the moon get hit by the meteor. Get yourself to the nearest store and stock up on canned goods (don’t forget the opener!), aspirin, vitamin C, rubbing alcohol, and many other first aid supplies. You’re going to need them. Because when the moon gets wacked closer to the earth all kinds of things happen–tsunamis, bitter cold, not enough sun to grow food, disease, etc. And when those things happen, civilization’s infrastructure breaks down, too. It’s not long before Miranda and her family are holed up in their house, desperately trying to survive on their limited food and with limited firewood. Pfeffer created a story that is truly frightening because you really can’t see how things can get better (it’s not like they’re waiting for the end of a natural winter) and you’re really not sure if all the characters will live. Miranda is a strong character who clings to hope that they will survive.
What Miranda realizes and what the title alludes to, is what I find so appealing (and so frightening) about these types of stories: one day you’re living life perfectly normally, then something huge and unimaginable happens, and then life is no longer the same at all. Life as Miranda knew it is a thing of the past. Any arguments she was having with a friend, struggles at school, worries about her appearance or a boy–all those things which had seemed so important now seem so silly and are a thing of the past–now her life is simply trying to remain alive.
While this is a really bleak picture of what could happen, it is an absolutely engrossing novel. Pfeffer followed it up with another novel called The Dead and The Gone, which takes place simultaneously, but in a different setting. It’s amazing what a completely different story it is because of that.
Life As We Knew It is believable and terrifying. It will have you lying awake at night formulating your own survival strategy and wondering just how far you’d go to survive. To me, that is a real horror story.
–Sarah Debraski, currently reading The Last Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn (which is guaranteed to not have anything so stressful as the moon getting knocked out of orbit)
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