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Monday, May 30, 2011

Dystopian Novels Ring True and Traumatic! "Life As We Knew It" "Dead and Gone" and "This World We Live In" by Susan B. Pfeffer

 "THE DEAD AND THE GONE"   by  Susan Beth Pfeffer 

Library Journal Review:
An asteroid knocks the moon closer to Earth, and every conceivable natural disaster occurs. Seventeen-year-old Alex Morales's parents are missing and presumed drowned by tsunamis. Left alone, he struggles to care for his sisters Bri, 14, and Julie, 12. Things look up as Central Park is turned into farmland and food begins to grow. Then worldwide volcanic eruptions coat the sky with ash and the land freezes permanently. People starve, freeze, or die of the flu. Only the poor are left in New York—a doomed island—while the rich light out for safe towns inland and south. The wooden, expository dialogue and obvious setup of the first pages quickly give way to the well-wrought action of the snowballing tragedy. The mood of the narrative is appropriately frenetic, somber, and hopeful by turns. Pfeffer's writing grows legs as the terrifying plot picks up speed, and conversations among the siblings are realistically fluid and sharp-edged. The Moraleses are devout Catholics, and though the church represents the moral center of the novel, Pfeffer doesn't proselytize. The characters evolve as the city decomposes, and the author succeeds in showing their heroism without making them caricatures of virtue. She accurately and knowingly depicts New York City from bodegas to boardrooms, and even the far-fetched science upon which the novel hinges seems well researched. This fast-paced, thoughtful story is a good pick for melodrama fiends and reluctant readers alike.—Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library

Listen Up Award
Publishers Weekly
Best Books for Young Adults
Young Adult Library Services Association
Teen's Top Ten
Young Adult Library Services Association

Meet the Author:   Susan Beth Pfeffer

I decided to be a writer when I was in first grade and I've been fortunate to have lived my dream. Among my books are Kid Power, About David, and The Year Without Michael and The Riddle Streak. I'm also the author of a trilogy of books (sometimes called The Last Survivors), Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, and This World We Live In. My 77th book, Blood Wounds, is scheduled for publication on Sept. 12, 2011. I have a 99 year old mother and a 2 year old cat and many wonderful friends.

Book Cover Summary:
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.

Miranda and her two brothers spend their days scavenging for food and household items, while their mother stays at home and desperately tries to hold on to the ordinary activities of their previous life. But they all know that nothing is truly normal in this surreal new world they live in.

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 Reviews:
I found these two YA audiobooks while browsing my local library's downloadable media, recently.  I'd never really heard of Susan B. Pfeffer, so I had no idea what I was in for but the story premises sounded good.  Now that I've discovered her, there's no turning back for me!  I'm a huge fan.

Dystopian novels are my newest craving and I'm always looking for good ones. It seems to me that YA fiction is hitting that mark best.  The authors are rising to the challenge, and their work is stellar...interesting and engaging.  With historical foundations such as "The Giver" by Lois Lowry, which I reviewed last month, the young adult genre has a "grandmothered" path laid for them.

It's difficult for me to listen to audiobooks.  I find them sleep inducing for one thing, and they make me want to do something with my hands for another thing..."idle hands are the devil's workshop" my grandmother taught me...so I want to stitch or knit!  When I do find something to do it often distracts me from the book!  And, further, it makes me wish I were reading the book instead of listening.  Hence, a little anxiety accompanies these things for me and I don't often make use of them.

This time, I listened attentively while making jewelry and found I was lost in the books, hardly knowing what I was making!  These books are very special.  The narrator is perfect for the main character, Miranda.  Her voice reached to the heart and captured the true essence of Miranda.  This alone made the books more believable.

Ms Pfeffer clearly is a veteran writer.  Her dialog is perfectly pitched and her characterization is excellent.  It reaches an ordinary cadence to the listener/reader making each character both real and full-bodied.  They were individuals that I felt close to and loved knowing.  I was, of course, especially fond of Miranda, but I also found myself protective of her mother, who tried so hard to maintain a safe and "normal" existence for her children amidst the decay that leached life all around them.  All of the characters lend themselves to one's interest and concern.  I've rarely found this in novels of any genre. 

In these novels a meteor has crashed into the moon and set the Earth into a disaster of such proportions that life hangs by a thread.  The sun is hidden, ash and smoke covers everything, thousands of people die and continue to die from catastrophic disasters.  Without the sun the plants and crops are contaminated and fail, and such common things as running water and electricity become non-existent.  Food becomes rationed and is minimal.  Miranda and her brothers scavenge abandoned homes for such simple items as toilet paper, books and soap. 

Relationships take on a new significance in this uncertain new world.  People become more precious and a new baby becomes even more a treasure.  Sickness and any sort of medical condition becomes a disaster waiting to happen with no hospitals and no medical supplies.  When one of the family is seriously injured, Miranda is faced with a moral dilemma that could affect all of them. 

All of these books are very special reads or audiobooks, whichever your choice may be.  While I haven't read "The Dead and The Gone" yet, I hope to as soon as I can get a copy of it.

Ms Pfeffer is a very gifted writer who makes characters rise above the ordinary.  She is more than imaginative, she's able to create worlds that are so believable you could walk into them in a blink of the eye.  It was frightening at times to hear the struggles Miranda and her family were enduring...making me wonder if life after a horrendous disaster of such proportions would be viable for the elderly and infirm at all.

"Foretelling" and eye-opening, these are books you really
don't want to miss this year.  Dystopian books at their best.

5 stars

  Here is a cover preview of Pfeffer's new book to be released in September.  I can hardly wait, and am hoping for a copy to review.  Stand by!

Please take a moment to visit her site to see her other books.  She's quite a prolific author of YA fiction.  And, she has amassed considerable awards for the books above...


Happy reading!


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