Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Booklog: Life As We Knew It, How I Live Now, While I Live (sometimes known as the "Life" trilogy)

Life As We Knew It
, by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Miranda is a typical teenager, and her diary reflects that: changing friendships, fights with her mom, and homework. When she begins to hear reports that an astroid is on course to crash into the moon, she barely pays attention. But when the collision shifts the moon off its axis, Miranda's world is changed forever in an instant. Massive tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanos wipe out millions, and all of the things Miranda used to take for granted begin to dissapear: food, water, gasoline, and contact with the outside world. Miranda records her family's struggle to survive in her diary, and we follow as things go from bad to worse.

This was my second disaster book in two days. It is completely different from How I Live Now, but possibly even more compelling. It feels real. It feels like something that could happen to us, right now. This is a quiet book. We don't see New York submerged, and we're not witness to the volcanos - all we see is Miranda's family, stockpiling food, rationing batteries, and clinging to each other. We see them grow and mature and adjust. This is a haunting book. It's been three days since I finished it, and I still can't get it out of my head. I literally could not put it down. Buy this book. Buy it now, and then set aside some time and start to read it. It is just that good.


How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff

In the not-too-distant future, Daisy, a Manhattan resident, is sent to live with her cousins on the English countryside. At first, the English countryside is something of a paradise. Daisy forms an instant bond with her cousin Edmond, and she spends her days gallivanting with her cousins. Until the war comes. A nameless enemy invades England. At first, Daisy and her cousins live in a sort of untouched paradise, separated from the war by the countryside. But then the war finds them, and Daisy and her cousin Piper are separated from the boys.

This book is clever and engaging and it draws you in and then it breaks your heart. I didn't expect the direction the book took. It shocked me. I kept thinking that something would change, that the direction would turn back, but it didn't, and that is the brilliance of this book. It is a war story, and in war, things often start out kind of okay and then move to awful. It feels true. It hurts. Daisy's voice is incredibly vivid - I can almost hear it in my head even now, a week after reading it. Daisy, her family, her world - they all stand out in stark colors in my head. This is one of those great books that lingers in your heart after you've finished reading.


While I Live: The Ellie Chronicles #1, by John Marsden

It is four months since the war ended, and for Ellie Linton, life is slowly returning to some form of normalcy. She is living on her family farm with her parents and helping to pick up the pieces of their life. She is back in school, and is slowly reclaiming who she was before the war. And then, in the blink of an eye, devestating tragedy strikes. Now, Ellie must pick up the pieces all over again and struggle to hold on to everything that she's managed to build. And this time, some of her enemies are closer to home.

If you haven't read Tommorow, When the War Began and its sequals, then go out and read them, and then read this book. They are about a group of teenagers who, upon returning from a camping trip, discover that their country has been invaded, their houses ransacked, and their families taken captive. Those books blew me out of the water. They are so well-written, so intense that I literally could not breathe at times when I was reading them. You know how when something traumatizing happens, something that shocks you, that image is indelibly burnt on your brain - a snapshot of the moment? One of the scenes in those books is like that for me. Indelibely burned. I still gasp for breathe when I think about how it felt when I read it - like a punch in the gut. That's how good these books are.

I was a little afraid to start reading While I Live. I knew that Ellie's narrative would grab me, and I knew that if something bad happened to her, it would hurt me. It would hurt me a lot, the way the life of a character you have spent seven books with matters to you. And I was right. Ellie's tragedy made me gasp with pain. And that's when I knew that John Marsden hadn't lost it, that even after a war, even during an uneasy truce, these books were still carried by Ellie's strong voice. These books are good. They are as good as their predecessors, if quieter (at least in part.) I am hungrily looking forward to more books in the Ellie Chronicles.

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