About Me

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A 40-ish publisher (editor, project manager, etc.), husband, and father of an even number of offspring, I grew up, or failed to, reading fantasy and sci-fi. I still enjoy reading, and now am trying to write. My favorite books include YA fantasy, manga, biography, and advice to authors. I'm also a former history major/grad student/high school teacher and assessment writer. Now I work for a school supplement publisher, specializing in high-low chapter books. I spend a lot of my time controlling reading levels. At night, I cut loose and use long words. W00t!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Life as we Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer

I'm slow to read this, and a bit perplexed by its success.

It's not that I don't like the book. On the contrary, I was riveted. I just found its plot development contrary to what I figured the target demographic was moved by.

This is good news on two fronts: first, that publishers are finding success with more than one formula for this age group (teens and young adults); and second, that teens and young adults (and I) are moved to read more than one formula.

As for scenarios, this one is a doozy. It starts a bit lackadaisically, but changes drastically. I find the slow set-up the confusing part. My feeling is that the diary format allows for greater latitude in developing an identification with the main character. That, and good writing. Pfeffer holds our attention without the global catastrophe striking in the first chapter.

When it does strike, it brings out some of the current political debate. First, the main character Miranda is frustrated with the behavior of her newly fundamentalist Christian friend. She feels shut out, and confused at her irrational behavior. I was watching for signs of a reversal in Miranda's opinion. None, as of the first book, but it's a three, and possibly four book set. (See Pfeffer's blog, linked at right.)

Second, Miranda's mom disses the president, and although he's not named, he lives in Texas, and she calls him a dimwit or the equivalent. Not too much guessing needed.

Third, and most important, Pfeffer neatly encompassed a minor part of the current government shut-down debate by showing how things fall apart. Every family turns inward, and in their isolation are exposed to great risk. Without mediating authority, contact with others also is a risk.

This paragraph is a spoiler, so don't keep reading if you don't want to, but it is only the resumption of some level of politicla organization that promises hope and saves Miranda's family at the end.

I thought that fit nicely into my developing sense of Pfeffer's politics. I intend to read the next two (or three) books in the series with an eye to her evolving opinion. It's just the sort of thing that raises my interest in a book, at least one that holds my attention with good plot and character development like this one.

For now, the book closes with Harry Tuttle in "Brazil" about to rappel off the highrise apartment wall, thumbs-up "We're all in this together, kid."

Great. I feel just like Sam Lowry.

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