I read Life As We Knew It last year for the Book Challenge, so it seems fitting that I read its sequel this year. This one is set in New York City, where seventeen-year-old Alex Morales lives with his parents and two younger sisters. Unlike Miranda and her family and classmates in the first book, Alex is barely aware of the predicted meteor hit and doesn't even realize what has happened until a day later. Things go from bad to worse almost immediately, however, with thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers dead, rioting in the streets, and social services completely obliterated. When Alex's parents disappear, he is forced to struggle by himself to keep his sisters alive, as food dwindles, sickness spreads, and the worst winter he can remember sets in.

I loved this book, almost as much as Life As We Knew It. Maybe "loved" isn't quite the right word, as both books make me want to either hide under the bed or run out to the grocery and stock up on canned goods, but that's because they do such an excellent job of evoking the panic and despair of facing such a disaster. There are a lot of similarities between the two books, except that in Alex's story, the disasters are much more immediate (Although for some reason, Pfeffer chooses not to tell Alex's story in diary format, as she did for Miranda, and that adds a bit of distance). In Life As We Knew It, what was especially striking to me was the sense of smothering isolation as Miranda and her family holed themselves up in their house in the country. We heard about all of the disasters happening, but saw them only as they indirectly affected her family. Being set in NYC, Alex's story of course feels much less isolated, and truly life-threatening situations set in much more quickly. On top of that, Alex's family doesn't have the money or the ability to stockpile food that Miranda's did, and so his world and what he must do to survive is pretty different from Miranda's. The images of people being trampled in food riots and of searching dead bodies on the streets for valuables were especially haunting. Another difference between the two stories is the devout Catholic faith of Alex and his family, which holds strong throughout the book despite a lot of understandable questioning and anger at God. I don't remember religion playing a part at all in Miranda's story, and its inclusion here offers another vision of how people might respond to such difficult times.

Overall, a great book. I hear that Pfeffer is writing a third one set several years after the disaster, which apparently will feature at least some of the characters from the first two books. I can't wait to find out how the world will have changed and what has happened to the two families we've followed so far.


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