Life As We Knew It

Infographic by Aubrey Molitor

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Plot Summary

Life as We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer is a fiction novel told from 16-year-old Miranda Evan's point of view. In the very beginning of the novel, Miranda writes about the average teenage day and all the worries she has about tests and friends. When an asteroid hits the moon, everything in Miranda's life changes. At first, it seems that no major issues are occurring. Soon enough, major storms are happening, the tides have changed dramatically, and the coasts are underwater. Miranda finds herself fighting for supplies in a grocery store, as everyone is worried about how long the effects will last and what they will need. School ends early. Food and electricity become scarce resources. Miranda tries to have a normal summer by swimming at Miller's Pond with friends, but this soon ends when other tragedies occur in Miranda's life. Volcanoes start erupting, putting an ash cloud over the Earth. Miranda's family goes through multiple troubles, including her mom injuring her ankle and the family cat, Horton, getting lost outside. Soon winter comes, but the family has stocked up enough to survive. The living space of the family's home gets smaller and smaller as the cold sets in. The flu infects everyone in the family except for Miranda, who helps them overcome it. At the end of the novel, Miranda goes to town and discovers that the city hall is giving food to families, and Miranda's family is able to survive on the food brought to them each week.

Setting

The story takes place in Howell, Pennsylvania, in the present. There are several different specific settings throughout the novel.


  • The Evan's home- The family's house is where most of the story takes place. The family lives here in the novel. Many factors force the family into limited areas of the house. There are many important scenes that take place here, such as when Miranda's mother injures her ankle and the family gets sick.
  • Miller's Pond- This is where Miranda chooses to spend most of her outdoor freetime. In the summer she goes swimming with people from her swim team, and in the winter Miranda skates here a couple times.
  • Mrs. Nesbit's house- Miranda and her mother both go to Mrs. Nesbit's house to keep her company. When Mrs. Nesbit dies, Miranda and her family get much-needed resources from Mrs. Nesbit's house.
  • Town- Members of Miranda's family go to the town many times throughout the novel. They get information from the post office and books from the library. A very important scene happens here as well when Miranda witnesses a robbery and is told by officials it is not safe for young women to be alone like she was. This is also where Miranda discovers that the city is giving food to people, which dramatically helps Miranda's family in the end.
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Character Descriptions

  • Miranda- Miranda is the main character of the novel. At first, she is trying to be as normal as possible after the moon hits. Miranda doesn't want to focus on all of the bad happening, and she doesn't want to think about the other countries that are going through the same problem or worse. Miranda soon realizes how severe their situation really is, and tries to help the family in every way she can. Miranda is set on helping the family through the hard times even though she still has doubts. Miranda helps the family by taking on more traditional roles for women, including laundry and cooking. She gathers kindling for the woodstove, and helps the family when they have the flu.
  • Mom- Mom's main concern is the survival of her children. She wants the family to be well and together, and she is willing to give up quite a quantity of food for her children to survive. Mom is very cautious about the resources used in the house and when they are used. She is not sure how long the effects of the meteor will last, and has prepared enough for quite some time. Mom limits the amount of food for everyone, and she doesn't allow the oil to be used carelessly. Mom saves everything; she doesn't know when they'll need it most.
  • Matt- Matt is constantly thinking ahead. Matt has multiple discussions with Mom about what would be in the best interest of the family, but these discussions often turn into arguments. Matt sometimes shares his thoughts with Miranda, which is mostly about plans he think may or may not work for the family's future. Matt and Mom talk about their ideas for leaving South, and whether they think it would be better, but decide to stay where they are. They talk about the usage of the oil, and decide to save it. Matt an important character for deciding the future of the family.
  • Mrs. Nesbitt- Mrs. Nesbitt is like family to the Evans. She has known Miranda's mom since she was a child. Mrs. Nesbitt is very real about the situation, and mentions multiple times that she knows she is going to die before the effects of the moon are better. With this in mind, Mrs. Nesbitt doesn't use many of the resources she has and makes sure the family takes the resources for them to use. Because of Mrs. Nesbitt's selflessness and love for the family, they are able to survive better and longer.

Themes

There are two important themes to take away from the novel. One is to never give up. Many times, Miranda and the other family members feel like giving up. One example of this is when Miranda is going to town and feels like stopping and just dying there. But Miranda continues and is rewarded with food guaranteed to help her family survive for at least months to come. Another example is when Matt gets sick and refuses to stop climbing the stairs. Matt believes he should be stronger and doesn't like that he is becoming weak. The other theme to take away is to have courage. Throughout the novel, the characters face many setbacks. They have to use their resources wisely, or it could cost them their lives. The kids in the family all have courage when they help their mother through her injured ankle and the dramatic changes in their lives. It is important to pick up these themes from the novel.