Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

This World We Live In

This World We Live In

Susan Beth Pfeffer
For ages 12 and up
Unabridged audiobook (CD)
Performed/read by: Emily Bauer
Listening Library (Audio), 2010   ISBN: 978-0307582256

A little less than a year ago, an asteroid hit the moon and the moon’s gravitational pull changed. Quite suddenly devastating tidal waves and earthquakes wracked the Earth. Ash from erupting volcanoes blocked out the sun, and plants and animals died. People died in the millions all around the globe, and now the biggest goal most people have is to find a way to stay alive.

Miranda and her family have had a hard time, but things are looking a little better now. They get electricity every so often, and they are able to eat two small meals a day. Admittedly, everything they eat comes out of a bag, a box, or a can, but it is still better than nothing.

In the late spring, Miranda’s brothers, Matt and Jon, go to the river to try to catch some fish. It has been so long since they ate anything fresh, and a haul of shad would be very welcome. Especially when you consider that they cannot be sure if food deliveries will continue to come to what is left of their town.

When the boys come back home a few days later, they not only bring a haul of fish with them, but Matt also brings home Syl, a young woman he has met, and married. Miranda’s mother is not pleased that her eldest son has married a complete stranger, but she understands that none of the old rules really apply any more. Millions of people are dead and dying, the future is uncertain, and no one knows when or if conditions will get better. It hardly seems the time to be arguing about two young people getting married.

Soon after Syl’s arrival, Miranda’s father Hal turns up with his wife, his baby son, and three new friends. It is a struggle to survive in this new and terrifying world, and Hal and his wife have formed a bond with an older man called Charlie, and two young people, Alex and his sister Julie. Alex is a very serious young man who, despite his youth, is determined to do everything he can to protect his sister. His plan is to take her to a convent where he hopes she will be safe. Julie would much prefer to stay with Hal, but Alex refuses to listen to her objections.

Though she is delighted to see her father again, Miranda cannot help worrying about the food problem. How are they going to be able to feed six extra people? Miranda’s mother explains that they are now a family, all of them. They have to take care of one another. In particular, they have to take care of baby Gabriel because he is everyone’s hope for a better future.

Against a backdrop of anxiety and uncertainty, Miranda finds herself developing strong feelings for Alex. She desperately wants him to stay with her family, and he equally desperately wants to take his sister to the convent. Miranda cannot bear the idea that she might soon lose yet another thing that matters to her. Hasn’t she lost enough?

In this extraordinary audiobook, Susan Beth Pfeffer brings together the young characters who appeared in her two earlier titles, Life as we knew it and The dead and the gone. Listeners will be both horrified and moved by the trials that Miranda and her extended family have to endure. Death is all around them, and no one knows what is going to happen in the future, and yet Miranda is still able to see that she is lucky. She has much to be grateful for, and she also has much to give.

In her narrative, actress Emily Bauer beautifully captures the tension that runs through this story. She gives the characters an added depth, and helps listeners to step into Miranda’s devastated world.