I heard about Susan Beth Pfeffer’s The Last Survivors trilogy — Life as We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, and This World We Live In — from a school librarian who came into the store to buy books for her library. She raved about the audiobooks, which she was listening to in her car, she said. I brought them along on my recent trip, curious to see how they’d be.
The first and third books are structured as the diaries of a teenage girl living in small-town Pennsylvania, around our own time. The second follows another character — a teenage Puerto Rican boy — in New York City and overlaps time-wise with the first half of Miranda’s story.
The concept for the books is quite good. Right at the beginning, the moon is knocked closer to Earth by an asteroid. The tides go crazy, severe weather rips through the world, food and water become scarce as epidemics ravage populations across the globe. All three books are survival stories, recounting the ways in which their characters stay alive one day at a time. I enjoyed the plot and remained interested to see how it would play out. There were, however, a couple of things that bothered me.
I’ll start by saying that I can absolutely see where the books would appeal to the age for which they’re written, which is mid-teens. The voice of Miranda, especially, in the first and third books is pretty authentically teenager, and Alex’s story in the second book is captivating. But my goodness, did Miranda get on my nerves. Her story is fascinating, but I found her thoughts and comments to be so grating that there were times I actually physically cringed. Her whiny character contrasted so sharply with Alex’s mature one that, when she reappeared in the third book, I found her even more irritating. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be her diary, but still.
I wonder if I would have felt differently had I read the books instead of listening to them. The reader who plays Miranda, Emily Bauer, sounds like a little kid, and I think it was largely her reading style that made Miranda come across as an immature whiner. Either way, though, I’d still have gotten sick of the phrase “What difference does it make??” The reader for The Dead and the Gone, Robertson Dean, was tolerable, if a touch overdramatic.
I also felt like the story deteriorated toward the end of the third book. Like all of a sudden, everyone went nuts and I was suddenly reading a different book full of new characters. But, I guess if the moon was knocked off its course and I’d been scrounging for food as long as the characters in the book had been, maybe I’d go a little nuts too!
There are a few things about how the story played out that irked me, but I can’t get into those without revealing some major plot points, so I’ll leave them be.
I’m glad I listened to Susan Beth Pfeffer’s The Last Survivors trilogy. I just think I may have liked it better if I’d read it instead.