Life As We Knew It, Day One, Chapters 1-3

May 9, 2008 at 3:21 pm | Posted in Life As We Knew It | 11 Comments

Life As We Knew It
Day One
Chapter One through Chapter Three

Chapter One

First sentence: “Lisa is pregnant.”

Our narrator, just so you know, is Miranda. Who is Lisa? Why do we care? Well, Lisa is Miranda’s stepmother. The one delivering the news? Her father. Why should we care? Well, Miranda has a hard time caring as well. She’s both happy and upset at the news. More worried as to how her mom will handle it, and how her brothers–one older, Matt, and one younger, Jonny–will handle it.

Life As We Knew It is written in diary format. Our perspective is Miranda’s perspective. We witness everything firsthand through her accounts. We know what she wants us to know.

The first few pages all seem pretty typical. Teen girl narrator. Divorced parents. Stepmother. Family drama with mom and siblings. Friend drama with fights and friends drifting apart, changing. School drama with teachers, homework, studying, tests. A teen wanting to learn to drive. A teen wanting to date. Same old, same old, right? Keep reading!

The transition from your stereotypical teen melodrama (rather disguised as “realistic fiction” or “romance”) is gradual. We see the gradual shift of Miranda’s focus, her attention.

The first hint of trouble is on Miranda’s diary entry of May 13th:

“He asked if any of us had heard about the asteroid and the moon” (9).

Her mom’s date, Peter, brings it up casually. Almost as an ice breaker. Something light, something neutral, something safe to discuss.

The next hint comes a few days later. May 16th.

“All of a sudden this moon thing is the biggest thing ever.” (10)

But it’s “big” not because people are worried, scared, anxious, panicky. (Think the Simpsons episode where Bart sees the asteroid coming (sees it coming on the telescope) and everyone panics and takes refuge in Ned’s shelter.) No, it’s big because it’s historic. History-in-the-making.

History-in-the-making translates into just one thing: homework, homework, and more homework. Three papers for three classes.

I do like Miranda’s brainstorming for topics. Especially her Star Trek references. (He’s dead, Jim)

The May 17th entry is a big one. You won’t really see it as such until a bit later on. But it’s the last “before” entry.

Life As We Knew It is about to change. Big time.

Chapter Two

First sentence: “Sometimes when Mom is getting ready to write a book she says she doesn’t know where to start, that the ending is so clear to her that the beginning doesn’t seem important anymore. I feel that way now only I don’t know what the ending is, not even what the ending is tonight” (16).

She then recounts her day from the very beginning. The morning bus ride, the school day, homework, dinner. More of the usual. Then she recounts the moment, the big moment.

“For a moment I thought about all the people throughout history who saw Halley’s Comet and didn’t know what it was, just that it was there and frightening and awe inspiring. For the briefest flick of a second, I could have been a 16 year old in the Middle Ages looking up at the sky, marveling at its mysteries, or an Aztec or an Apache. For that tiny instant, I was every 16 year old in history, not knowing what the skies foretold about my future.” (page eighteen)

She even talks about witnessing the impact.

“And then it hit. Even though we knew it was going to, we were still shocked when the asteroid actually made contact with the moon. With our moon. At that second, I think we all realized that it was Our Moon and if it was attacked, then we were attacked.” (18-19)

She then talks about the panic. Starting small, then growing and growing. Panic. Fear. Worry. Thousands of questions needing answers.

When a crisis happens, where do people turn? The TV of course. While their cable is out, their internet is out, their cell phones are out, their land lines (phone lines) are busy, they are still able to pick up some channels, some news. They don’t like what they hear. The news isn’t good.

Tsunamis.

“It was like one of those lists on the radio to let you know which schools were having snow days. Only instead of it being school districts in the area, it was whole cities, and it wasn’t just snow.” (24)

The effects are just beginning–the faintest sign of what is to come–at the close of this chapter. But already change is there. So many questions left unanswered, some spoken, some unspoken. Everyone is afraid of the answers they might hear.

Chapter Three:

First sentence: “I woke up around 6 to the sound of the phone ringing. I threw on my robe and went to Mom’s room” (27)

I bet that is one of the rare times (so far) Miranda is happy to be woken at 6 in the morning! They had been unable to get in touch with her father and Lisa the night before. So it was quite a relief to hear his voice, to find out he’s okay.

School is still a go. It hasn’t been cancelled. But it must have been one of the worst school days ever. I shudder just thinking about it. The intense, severe thunder and lightning storms. The rain. The wind. The loss of electricity. I’d be the unnamed kid in the hallway who was screaming, crying, shaking, and wailing “I don’t want to die.”

A couple of hours into the school day (still morning) Miranda’s mom shows up to take her. Mom has a plan. And she needs help. Back at the car, she finds out all about it. Mom has it all together, and they are on their way to the end-of-the-world shopping spree. Mom. Mrs. Nesbitt. Miranda. Jonny. First stop? Grocery store.

One of my favorite lines: “What about desserts?” I asked. “If the world comes to an end, I’m going to want cookies.” “We’re all going to want cookies if the world comes to an end,” Mrs. Nesbitt agreed. “And chips and pretzels. If the world is coming to an end, why should I care about my blood pressure?” “Okay, we’ll die fat,” Mom said. “Grab what you can grab and ram it into your wagons. But remember if we actually need this stuff, we’re going to be a lot more grateful for a can of soup than for a box of stale cookies.” “Speak for yourself,” Mrs. Nesbitt said. (34)

“The supermarket reminded me of the hallway at school this morning, and maybe because I’d just been through all that, the store didn’t scare me as much as it ordinarily would have. So what if people were screaming and crying and fighting. I plowed through people and raced to canned vegetables.” (35)
“Except for the total terror I was feeling in the pit of my stomach, it was kind of fun, like those game shows where someone wins five minutes at the supermarket except there were dozens of other winners and we were all there at the same time.” (36)

Miranda goes through three rounds of loading and unloading her cart.

Next stop? The strip mall.

The third stop? The convenience store.

Then it’s home. Exhausted, overwhelmed, stressed. Her mom just collapses in tears.

Can’t say I blame her.

What do you think so far? Of the characters? Miranda? Mrs. Nesbitt? Mom? Jonny? Megan and her other friends? Of the plot? Is it making you want to go grocery shopping?

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  1. At this point I wasn’t sure I’d like the book — I was frightened by all the teen melodrama. I liked the mom’s forethought, and the game they made of thinking of things that they’d need without anyone (except maybe the mom) really taking it seriously.

    It made me want to try the online shopping thing my store keeps advertising, and also to update my emergency supply kit.

  2. All I can say is WOW! I am LOVING this book. Thanks so much Becky for picking it. It is one of those books I probably won’t have read on my own, so I feel lucky to have run across the book club!! So far I know several people that I want to recommend this book to…but I will wait to do that until the end. If I could hide away in a corner I would read this book for the rest of the day!

    Here are my thoughts:

    “I kind of missed being able to see the storm. I didn’t feel like it was a tornado. I felt like the world was coming to an end, and I was going to miss all the action, because I was going to be sitting on the hallway floor when it did” (31).

    I can relate. I live in Louisville and a few weeks ago we had an earthquake. Yes an earthquake. I was in the car and missed it all. I didn’t even know there was an earthquake until my husband called to tell me. We never have earthquakes and I missed it all! Now mind you I was in an Earthquake once in Illinois and still remember it, but I still missed this one. And I probably won’t even remember that there was one because I missed it! LOL! So I can understand Miranda’s feeling of missing out!

    Am I the only one who thinks Mom is brilliant??! I wouldn’t have thought about Progressive soup because it doesn’t need water or probably about vitamins and pain killers either. Heck I am not even sure that I would be at the store at all! I feel better prepared for the end of the world reading chapter 3!

    I really think my next stop would be the library. If the world is ending and I am going to be trapped at home I want lots of reading – especially escape reading! I would check out the library’s limit and try to pick thick books too!!  It gives me comfort having a book shelf of TBR books!

    I also liked the line about the desserts. I think one of my priorities might have been baking goods because I love to bake and then there would be more desserts. But then again would there be gas or electricity to bake with? Hmm.

    Isn’t it ironic how perspective changes. Since Miranda had been though the chaos at school she wasn’t all that shocked by the supermarket. Otherwise she might have been paralyzed with fear.

    Where are the Christian kids? Is it the end of the world and Jesus has come for them? Miranda hasn’t really talked about her feelings on Jesus and neither has some of the other characters.

    Will Matt make it home? I think it is sweet Miranda got Fig Newtons for him.

    Would you be able to send your kids to school? I don’t think I would be able to. Would you help with man at the grocery store who needed diapers? I hope that I would. I wonder if Mom cleaned out their bank account?

  3. Well I am loving it and completely gripped. I decided at the beginning that I was going to read to schedule but it was so hard to stop!
    I love Miranda’s narration I can really relate to her, the feeling of missing out and the excitement in the grocery store even though it is scary. I think that’s quite a normal reaction to a strange terrifying situation. If you aren’t hurt or directly threatened it can be exciting.
    The Mum is great and made me want to rush out and restock our emergency kit – we used to have one in Mexico but haven’t bothered here 🙂
    I liked how the excitement changed to panic when they saw it hit the moon and then everyone was trying to watch TV.
    I can’t wait to read more. I’m expecting the church to play a big role seeing it has been mention so much. I’m wondering if it will be a leader of the community or react by saying this is God’s judgement.
    Thanks for picking it Becky, great choice.

  4. I agree with Darcie. This is not a book I’ve selected for myself. And I’ll be honest, when I saw it was in a diary layout, I cringed…lol! I so don’t like books like this. The first night, I read right before the asteroid hit. Went to bed regretting I agreed to read it.

    Next night, I read another book, dreading to read another chapter or two. Well, when I picked this book back up, I read and read and read. I had to make myself go to bed because my eyes were burning from reading so much.

    What a great book!

    Anyway, I think it’s funny you should ask about the desire to shop. Guess what I made last night as a snack? P/J sandwiches…I felt like I was starving…lol!

  5. I’m so pleased with the turnout!!! Thanks everyone for participating and sharing your thoughts.

    Yes, the first chapter has some of the typical teen drama. A nice “before” short of what the world is like before the actual drama begins. That and the diary format do make some cringe, but this is one where you’ve got to stick with it at least until the meteor hits. Once the first big IT happens, well, I think people would probably be more hooked, eager to see what happens…

    I like the mom. She’s definitely keeping her head in the situation. I wouldn’t have thought of Progresso soup either. I don’t know what I would have wanted to grab. I’m sure I would have headed for the painkillers though! Mom & I are migraine sufferers. And Mom & Dad have been vitamin takers from way back in the day so that would have probably been on their list as well.

    It’s quite fascinating and terrifying to think about what you’d need. To think of what would be a good choice or a bad choice. Most of the food (I’m assuming) people eat on a regular basis requires refrigeration–meat, eggs, cheese, milk, fresh vegetables, frozen goods. Without electricity, many foods would spoil.

    It’s early in the novel, and they haven’t really any idea what is going to be available. But the mom isn’t going to take any chance. I think Miranda and Mrs. Nesbitt thinking of alternative lighting–candles and oil lamps–was smart. I don’t know that I would have thought of that right away.

    It’s funny you should mention the library. 🙂 I will say no more now though.

    We will see more of the Christian kids and the church–not a lot–but some. Especially Miranda’s friend Megan and her church. But since Miranda and her family aren’t believers or active participants in church, we really don’t get much of an idea of how religion/spirituality helps or hinders society.

    The Dead and the Gone however presents a whole other side. It is in this novel that the church takes on a great leadership role and you see the Christian response to the disaster.

    This book is a book that has stuck with me. It’s hard not to think about “being prepared” for the unexpected. Thinking and plotting just how you would try to survive. It changed the way I think about the grocery store–odd but true.

    And it is a great question–would you could you have helped others out–the man with the baby needing food and diapers and help. Scary ethics in action.

  6. I accidentally read half the book already 😮 This one’s hard to put down! So I’ll try to stick with day one here…It’s amazing so far! I’m really loving it. Pfeffer did an incredible job with capturing the writing of a teenage journal in my opinion and the scene of the asteroid impact on the moon was truly terrifying. I could vividly see it all in my head as it was happening in the book. Loved the line in the first chapter or so with “Gas is already nearly $5/gallon”, lol…sign of the end times? Hopefully the gas prices of the rest of the book don’t reflect what’s going to happen in real life! Really looking forward to following everyone’s thoughts on this one!

  7. That is funny I has the same thought about the gas! I guess it can get worse than the 4.50 we are seeing!! Also will you look at the moon or storms again? I defiantly have a bigger appreciation of the grocery store! Some things I am wondering if they will start making stuff from scratch. Like bread or something. 🙂 I would guess they would have to at some point. What do you think about Mrs. Nesbitt? I think it is sweet the Mom has thought to look out for her – even though she has children they must live far away because they aren’t active in her life. I am wondering if when the book goes on if more neighbors will be adopted by the family…and as people start to get hungry if Miranda’s family will take them in.

  8. By the way – I am in Chapter 4 an am realizing that I cannot read ahead – I just KNOW I will give something away!! 🙂 THere are already things that I want to talk about!

  9. I’m loving this book, too! I sat in the sun today and rad for a couple hours so I am ahead and it just keeps getting better.

    I like the fact that Miranda isn’t perfect and that she sounds like a teenager.

    I just can’t get the whole situation out of my mind. What would I do? How would I react? Mesmerizing, really!

  10. I’m really enjoying this book so far. I like Miranda. She’s really well written. I can picture my 14 year old or one of her friends saying the exact words Miranda says. The diary format works really well for this book. I was impressed with Miranda’s Mom. I don’t think I could have stayed as calm and thought of all the things she managed to think of in such a situation.

  11. i dont like this site,it is so stupid!is this even the first chapter of Life As We Knew It??? i dont think so! got it right people of at least Becky who ever the person who made this site and i cant believe you make people put there website and address on here to post a stupid comment……..its a good idea i put a *REAL* on both


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