Life as We Knew It

Common Sense Media says

Gripping, terrifying disaster tale will inspire discussions.




ALA Best and Notable Books

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers may find this book on a school recommended reading list.  But whether they first encounter this book in the classroom or at home, it's sure to lead to some provoking discussions as readers try to decide what they would do in Miranda's situation. Teachers and parents can find discussion guides for this book and its sequels on the publisher's Web site.

Positive messages

This book examines the ugly and terrifying implications of global catastrophe. Through the characters own discussion about what's really important, readers may begin to draw their own conclusions. At the end, readers will find some hope in the pages of this book.

Positive role models

Miranda is an average teen facing the struggle for survival in a newly hostile world. She must learn to tap into her inner strength and depend on her family.


A parent commits suicide after her daughter dies.


Some kissing, mention of a period, discussion of when to have sex. A teen girl takes up with an older man.

Not applicable

Fast food and candy brands.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Wine drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book about a global disaster is well drawn but terrifying, and is best for readers who able to put it in the appropriate context. Even kids who have the maturity to read it on their own may appreciate discussing its themes with their families -- see our "Families Can Talk About" section for some ideas. This book was one of the American Library Association's Best Books For Young Adults Readers in 2007, and some kids may find this book on a school recommended reading list. It is the first book in a series of three.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

When a meteor crashes into the Moon, it knocks the Moon's orbit a bit closer to the Earth, causing tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, which in turn wipe out coastal cities, disrupt infrastructure and weather patterns, and cause crop failure. Teenaged Miranda, who lives with her mother and brothers in Pennsylvania, doesn't directly witness most of this, but she feels the effects: Her family must try to survive on hoarded canned food and a woodstove when power and communications fail, there is no food in stores, temperatures plummet, the sun is blocked by volcanic ash, and disease ravages the surviving population.

Is it any good?


This is one terrifying book, more so because it's largely concerned with the mundane -- food, water, heat. The author is very clever here, though: She has chosen a possible but very unlikely event (disruption of the moon's orbit) as the catalyst for the story, providing a little distance for those who need it, but the results of the moon's change are all too similar to much more likely scenarios, such as global warming -- rising tides, weather and agricultural disruption, collapsing infrastructure, and energy failure -- and alert young readers won't fail to make the connection. Ultimately, this book's realism, combined with a gripping writing style, may scare younger kids, and won't be as easy for you to dismiss as just fantasy. But for middle-schoolers and up, it will be extremely compelling and thought-provoking.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about books about the future. Many books, like this one, make dark predictions about what will happen to our planet and our society. Why do you think that is?

  • Books like this may be somewhat scary -- but are they important to read? Why is it important to consider our possible futures?

  • This book has two sequels. Will you read any further into the

  • series? There is some hope at the end of this book -- what do you think

  • will happen next?

Book details

Author:Susan Beth Pfeffer
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Harcourt Brace
Publication date:October 1, 2006
Number of pages:337
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

This review of Life as We Knew It was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 11 years old March 31, 2011

For 12 and up

I love it my whole school is reading the whole series this book is awesome!!!
What other families should know
Educational value
Teen, 14 years old Written byBlue Eyed Angel March 23, 2010

One of the best books ever.

I am nearly 15 and I first read this book when I was about 12. I fell in love with this book. Miranda is such a good role model because she had to fight for her life and for her family. I really loved reading about how the world went from being totally normal to being nearly dead. I really really loved this book.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Educator and Parent of a 8 and 13 year old Written byLucy Lou June 16, 2010

Surprised at the 4 Star Rating

I teach in a parochial school, and my 5th and 6th grade kiddos would have a hard time with this book. As an avid reader of juvenile fiction, I think there are better choices for 5-8 grade kids. This is heavy subject matter. The author does a wonderful job of painting a bleak, dreary, frightening picture of a global disaster, and that's exactly what's wrong with it. The imagery that it creates is a heavy and grey, as if you can feel the weight of these characters around you. Sammi goes off with a 40 year old man so that her parents don't have to worry about feeding her, and her parents seem fine with that, given the circumstances. Megan starves herself to earn redemption for her sins by an unforgiving God. This perception of God is taught to her by a preacher who takes food from his congregation as they are dying from starvation. So much food that he still appears not to have lost any weight at all. I think the message of God and His church in this book is extremely negative. The main character, Miranda, chooses to give up her life by walking out in freezing temperatures in a weakened state so that her family's food can last a few days longer. Luckily, that doesn't occur, but that's about the happiest thing in this story. The ideas of taking care of your family, loving your mother and father, and selflessness are all good messages, but it's told at such a dark, emotional level that I'm afraid some children would be haunted by the tale.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex


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