Life As We Knew It/The Dead and The Gone

Life As We Knew ItLife As We Knew It and The Dead and The Gone are companion young adult/science fiction novels covering the same events from the points of view of two different characters.  In both stories, the moon is struck by a very large meteor, pushing the moon off its axis and closer to Earth, resulting in tsunamis, violent storms, droughts, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.  These natural disasters result in power shortages, food shortages, crop failures, widespread death and disease, and the failure of communication systems worldwide.

Life As We Knew It centers on 16-year-old Miranda and her family, who live in rural Pennsylvania.  It is written in the form of Miranda’s diary, and chronicles the weeks and months following the catastrophe, as the family tries their hardest to stay alive despite dwindling supplies of food and water, as well as inconsistent electricity and gas supplies.  Miranda’s family is fortunate…her mother realized right away how serious things were going to get, and how soon, so she made sure to collect as much food and fuel as possible.  They lived in a very old house, which worked to their benefit, as it still had a wood burning stove, a luxury many of their neighbors did not have.  Miranda’s mother is dating a doctor, which also comes in quite handy several times.  Through the story, as conditions worsen, the closeness of the family comes through, and they all look after each other and love one another.  Miranda still has teenager type fights with her mother, bristles against the unfairness of it all, and craves privacy in such close quarters.  Still, while her family has more heat and food than many of their neighbors, they are not exempt from an influenza epidemic which decimates their small town, nor are they able to find out what is going on in the outside world, as satellites have stopped working, and most stations have gone off the air.

The Dead and The Gone is the story of Alex Morales, a 17-year-old boy living in Manhattan at the time of the meteor strike.  His tale is more grim, as his parents are both gone at the time of the strike, and never return.  He doesn’t have money to go out and shore up provisions, and he feels the responsibility of caring for his two younger sisters keenly.  While Life As We Knew It is a story of family, The Dead and The Gone is more a story of faith, community, and class.  Alex’s family is Catholic, one of his sisters quite devoutly so.  They all attend Catholic schools in the area, and the priests and nuns there offer them some solace and hope throughout their ordeal.  Alex’s story is far more gritty than Miranda’s, as he has much less food on hand, no money, no parents to support him, and he must forage in the streets for food to feed his starving sisters.  His wealthy school friends come to his aid, as does the school, but their resources are also limited, and ultimately, it is up to Alex to do his best for his remaining family.  He often second guesses himself, and wishes his parents were there to make the difficult decisions of whether the family would be better off together or apart, and how best to ensure their safety in a dying city.

Both books are well told and grim.  I wouldn’t recommend them for sensitive readers, especially The Dead and the Gone, as some of the scenes are fairly harsh.  Probably fine for most kids 7th grade and up.  Maya read Life As We Knew It, and loved it, but couldn’t get into The Dead and The Gone.  I was hooked by both stories, though I connected more with Miranda than I did poor Alex.


I found these books at Buy Books For The Holidays, which I came to via Dewey of The Hidden Side of a Leaf.  Dewey has led me to so many wonderful books and ideas, and I was saddened and shocked yesterday when I went by Dewey’s blog and found a note from her husband saying that she has died.  Dewey was a voracious reader, a prolific writer, and a very cherished member of the book blogging community, a community that I skirt along the edges of, with my book reviews and challenges, but am not a full fledged member.  I will miss her blog, her reviews, her challenges, her comments here and on other blogs we have in common, and most of all, her wonderful spirit.  Her husband and her family are in my thoughts at this most difficult time.

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4 thoughts on “Life As We Knew It/The Dead and The Gone

  1. Thanks for these reviews. I just bought Life as we Knew It for my 8th-grade daughter for Christmas. She recently discovered dystopian fiction and from the description this sounded like a good choice. I was not aware of the companion book … we’ll start with the first one and take it from there.

    And yes, Dewey will be missed. That was such surprising and sad news.

  2. These stories seems really compelling and would make really exciting movies — especially the first novel. From what you told me, the last “act” of Life As We Knew It was quite the nail biter!

  3. I’m a fan of YA literature and will put these on the NEVERENDING list of things that I want to read. Right now I’m reading (rereading since I first read it in Junior High) The Island of the Blue Dolphins.

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