Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Curmudgeon's Corner: The Last Survivors "Trilogy" Rant

Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors, #1)
Don't you hate it when a book is so good and then the author decides to write another, and ANOTHER, and you just wish they just left it at the one? That was my experience with The Last Survivors "Trilogy" by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I put trilogy in quotes because I don't really feel like this fits the definition of a trilogy since the second book is a parallel novel that doesn't even have Miranda (the main character from the first novel) and her family in it.

Goodreads Book Description: Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all--hope--in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Review
To put it bluntly, I loved this book. A good friend recommended it to me. I had started it a year ago, but stopped because I didn't think the first few chapters were that compelling. I'll get to that later. I'm just glad I went back to it.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer stars Miranda, a normal girl who lives in a small town. She is your typical teenager-- fights with her mom, whines about how life is unfair, and struggles with math. An asteroid hits the moon, and the tides cover many areas of land, causing wide spread destruction, panic, and death. Even Miranda and her family who live more inland are affected. They band together, hoard food, and cut wood in anticipation for what is to come. What begins is a very poignant portrayal of survival.

I'll stand by my initial words-- the beginning is still not my favorite. I know that we are supposed to get lulled into Miranda's normal life, but it's almost too much. The story really begins, ironically, when the world seems to come to an end (literally, not just in teen speak). That said, after the asteroid hits, the story gradually heightens the tension and suspense. We grow to love Miranda and her family, and she is forced to grow up fast. But she does, and I admire the woman she becomes in such dire circumstances. The side characters are just as wonderful and three dimensional-- including her two brothers, Jon and Matt, and her mother. Matt is probably my favorite, and I am awed by how well he keeps the family together. He is only a freshman in college. One of the most moving scenes, however, is when the family gets sick with flu. I won't say any more and have the reader discover this scene for themselves. I was moved to tears.

Overall, this book has the feel of the Diary of Anne Frank, as it is told in diary entries of Miranda. This feel was probably completely on purpose by Pfeffer, as the world that Miranda lives in can be compared to Anne Frank's experience, hiding with her family from the Nazis. I was impressed with the world building, the well thought out and three dimensional characters, and the emotional impact of this book. At the end, I was still left with the hope that not only people but the goodness in human nature would survive.

The Dead and the Gone (Last Survivors, #2)Sounds awesome, right? So then we get to the second book, which is a parallel book, meaning it takes place at the same time as Life As We Knew It, but with different characters.

Goodreads book description: Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its brutal but hopeful look at an apocalyptic event--an asteroid hitting the moon, setting off a tailspin of horrific climate changes. Now this harrowing companion novel examines the same events as they unfold in New York City, revealed through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican Alex Morales. When Alex's parents disappear in the aftermath of tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland, and food and aid dwindle.

With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful new novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities.

My Rating: ??

This World We Live In (Last Survivors, #3)
So it turns out my Kindle knows me well and didn't even give me the option to read this book. So instead I read the third book (thinking it was the second book), which takes place a month after Life as We Knew It, and we are back in journal format with Miranda, who meets Alex, the star of the second book. Once I figured this out, I decided that if Alex seemed interesting in the third, I'd go back to the second. Not so much.

That leads us to the final book, This World We Live In.

Goodreads Book Description: It’s been a year since a meteor collided with the moon, catastrophically altering the earth’s climate. For Miranda Evans, life as she knew it no longer exists. Her friends and neighbors are dead, the landscape is frozen, and food is increasingly scarce.

The struggle to survive intensifies when Miranda’s father and stepmother arrive with a baby and three strangers in tow. One of the newcomers is Alex Morales, and as Miranda’s complicated feelings for him turn to love, his plans for his future thwart their relationship. Then a devastating tornado hits the town of Howell, and Miranda makes a decision that will change their lives forever.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Yeah, wasn't a fan of this book.

My Abbreviated Review: 
Miranda continues to write about how life is after the meteor disaster and the struggle to find food and other necessities. Except it seems like all of the characters have regressed in their maturity. Miranda starts whining about how bad life is again and fights with her mom about ridiculous things. Matt, who may have been my favorite character in the last book, now is completely self centered and can only talk about a girl he's found while fishing. New characters enter the book (Alex and company), but they only add to the whine and dine that is this book, which is why I had no desire to go back and read the second book.

I was completely underwhelmed by this new entry in this series and hope that this is the last one. Life As We Knew It is a wonderful book and can act as a stand alone. I encourage people to see it that way.

What did you think of this "trilogy"?

1. International Giveaway of signed copy of If I Lie by Corrine Jackson OR Three swag packs!
IF I LIE giveaway 


  1. I read only first book and I really, really like it. I was shocked and, like you, I was in tears few times. Miranda's diary seems to be so... real and normal, not like in movies with all fireworks, superheroes and stuff. I'm gonna read second and third volume because I'm curious about ,,what'll happen next". I wrote my own review ( it isn't available in English yet, but I'm working to translate it ;) )

    1. I think it's worth taking a look at especially if you are a reviewer. Let me know what you think!

  2. Yeah that is annoying when that happens. Glad you liked the first one, though! :D

    1. Yes, I definitely recommend the first one, it's terrific!

  3. I haven't read these books but what I thought of when you mentioned the idea of a forced trilogy was The Matrix. Man, I loved that movie. Man, I totally hated the 2nd and 3rd ones.

    As someone who now makes money creatively (OMG, still kind of reeling from that) I completely understand the allure of extending something that was well-received or lucrative (or that an editor said "Hey, if you write more in this series we'll pay you) but I would want it to stand up to the first book and not feel superfluous or 'tacked on.' (Those Matrix sequels totally felt tacked on to me).

    I'm a big fan of companion books like ANNA and LOLA :) Different stories in a similar world.

    1. Fiona, thanks for your comment. I love getting the perspectives from published authors :-) It must be extremely tempting to write more books-- and I love going back to a fascinating world if there are more tales to tell!

  4. You nailed this. The first book was brilliant and really moving, but the story seemed to be complete in that one volume. I did read the second one, and it just didn't hold up. I'll always remember the first one fondly. Sometimes that's enough.

  5. Thank you for such a facinating post. I have read several series and trilogies that have started with a particularly amazing book, and then the following books are just not the same; loosing momentum and excitement within the plot. For an example Phillip Pullman's the Northern Lights (book one of his dark materials trilogy) was fantastic, but books two and three (the subtle knife and the amber spyglass) were less than great. Secondly as an example Chris Evans 'Ashes of a black frost' was spectacular but the following two books in the trilogy seemed to have no substance, as if all of the auhthor's greatest writing and ideas had been spent in book one.

    Thank you once again for such a fantastic post, with a topic that i often rant about myself!

  6. I have not found a trilogy that I disliked but I have not read this one yet.Sorry it left you disappointed...of course there r times when I have thought that about movie series

  7. There are times that I don't want the author to write another book in continuation of the 1st one but there are also times when a book left me hanging, that I crave for more. Like what happened when I read The Host by Stephenie Meyer. Yes, it was supposed to be a standalone but I was satisfied yet unsatisfied about the ending of it. It's good, but it kinda left me wondering what will happen next and I crave for more Ian and Wanda moments so I was really happy when I found out that Stephenie will make it a trilogy. I do hope she'll do justice to the 1st book.

  8. I agree with your comments about both books. I also almost stopped Life as we Knew It but ended up loving the book. I eagerly read the second one (despite reading the poor reviews) and did not care for it all. I read the third one in order to get closure and thought it was just so so. It was such a shame that the series went downhill because Life as we Knew It was a great novel.