I’ll go out on a limb here, but come with me: I believe Susan Beth Pfeffer’s series (now dubbed “The Last Survivors”) is probably one of the most inventive, creative, and utterly terrifying sets of books available right now across all age groups.
This World We Live In picks up where Life as We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone left off. But as readers, we don’t know that entirely from the start of the book. We enter into Miranda’s life in rural Pennsylvania, with her living at home with her mother and two brothers one year after the moon has caused mass destruction. Miranda and her brothers have been spending free time (which there is a lot of) house hunting, which involves breaking into the homes of those no longer there and taking the items which their family so desperately needs. Finding scraps of toilet paper becomes a “good day.” But when Miranda’s brothers decide to go fishing at a river miles away, one returns back a completely changed person. When they leave to fish, Miranda becomes a changed person when she stumbles upon a pile of bodies on her way home from house hunting.
Because the book hasn’t been published quite yet, I’m dancing around one of the biggest events that happens in the book. But as readers have come to anticipate, Miranda and Alex Morales — who left New York City with his sister to escape imminent death in the big city by the water — finally meet face to face. And the way they meet is completely unexpected but fits so well into the story. Likewise, the development of their relationship is an important one, as it is a nice parallel to the greater story overall.
Some of the missing from the first two books will also reappear in this title. I don’t want to give anything away, of course, but I was pleasantly surprised to see who arrived and whose dreams (and nightmares) were met because of those encounters.
But don’t get me wrong: this is NOT a happy book. In fact, there is a major event that happens with the earth in this book that changes the entire course of what I was hoping for. And while it made me sad, I was impressed with Pfeffer’s relentless energy in writing such a story. In This World We Live In, the themes of environmentalism, religion, love, and relationships are explored and tested, and things don’t end up pretty or perfect. This is reality, and this is exactly why there is no comparison of this series to so many others being published now.
One of the biggest negative issues I had with this book were some of the new plot lines that never became fully fleshed. I felt that the new character we met following the brothers’ fishing trip never had a good fit into the story, and I never felt this character was necessary. A number of discussions of the safety camps were brought up, as well, and I was never once convinced about their whereabouts, their existence, or their promise, and this character was one of those reasons precisely. I felt like the character could have been better woven into the fabric of the story and made to become stronger and more believable.
That said, I hope this is the last installment in the series. There is resolution in the story, as uncomfortable as it is.
If you haven’t read the first two books, do NOT read this one. You need to read the others before diving into this one, and I would recommend picking up Life as We Knew It first, though the order of the first two aren’t set in stone.
Look for this one to published April 1, 2010 by Harcourt Children’s Books. If you can’t wait to get your hands on it, there is a free galley available through NetGalley, as well.
Have you read this one yet? I’m dying to discuss it. This is one series that begs to be discussed, as individual novels and as a collective. If you have read it, leave your comments and thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear your impressions.