July 22nd, 2013
My end-of-the-world odyssey continues. This past week found me still searching for apocalyptic thrillers, culminating in a read of “Life As We Knew It,” by far, the most mild-mannered “we’re all gonna die” dystopian yet.
I suppose it wasn’t dystopian as much as it was “is it the end of the world?” because the main character didn’t know if she’d live through her teen years or not. She continued to live in her home with her mom and siblings while people still did normal things like send their kids to camp and go to the library except they did it knowing an asteroid hit had knocked the moon off its axis and closer to Earth, setting all kinds of disasters in motion, from tsunamis to volcanos.
This in-between period of “maybe everything will return to normal” and “this could be the end” meant that people kept going on with the trajectory of their lives hoping for the former, even after grocery stores stopped selling food and electricity went from intermittent to nonexistent.
Most of the book unfolded through the protagonist’s diary entries, which chronicled the sudden shift of her life from high school and angsting to homebound and stockpiling food. I see why so much dystopian lit is young adult – it’s because the end of the world takes on a whole new significance if you’re just starting your life. That kind of bittersweet insight adds a plot layer and automatically makes the reader root for the main character. Each threat to the safety of the hero or heroine hits harder and deeper because they HAVE TO MAKE IT and get to college, find a life partner, and then wonder what it’s all for like the rest of us.
I liked that “Life As We Knew It” didn’t focus as much on the outside violence, which was mild and rare, but rather on the inside of the characters and the choices they make in the face of the giant moon staring Earth down its lifeline. One character, for instance, decides to stop eating altogether, while the reverend of a local church almost gains weight from the food his starving congregation gives him.
If you’re temporarily over roving bands of insurgents zombifying, this is a good book to cleanse your palate.
[Still trying to write a post a day, and publishing even if they my mind tells me it blows.]