The disaster that initiates the apocalypse in this novel is that the moon has been hit by a meteor and has been knocked closer to earth. This causes all sorts of cataclysmic events such as tsunamis, volcanic activity and climate change. The family's response to this forms the bulk of the novel.
Miranda is 16 and is preoccupied with all the things readers and viewers of American texts will recognise: prom, grade point average, friendships and budding romance. Her father has remarried and is expecting a new baby, and Miranda's response to this modern, but common, family composition will be a point of recognition for many readers. Over the course of the text she moves from the typical self-centered, argumentative teenager to someone who will do anything to ensure that her younger brother (at least) will survive.
Susan Beth Pfeffer tells the story in diary entries from Miranda's perspective. She has captured an authentic teenage voice with all the complaining, angst and arguments that will certainly ring true with teenagers, and those who live or work with them! Her relationship with her mother is an example of this- she loves her, she hates her, they fight hammer and tongs. I'm just grateful that the mother character isn't killed off! So much of this relationship forms the heart of the novel, and I found it both realistic and moving.
If you were to compare this disaster novel to some of the adult versions of the genre, then it is probably closest to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which I loved. BUT the humanity in this text is completely different: the doctor character remains working in the local hospital when most are fleeing; people volunteer in the post office; teachers try to keep the schools open and the community shares when they can afford to. There is also lovely relationship with an older woman.
My one gripe is with the representation of faith. The church and its representatives are certainly not shown positively, and the character who chooses to starve herself to be closer to God is one I could have done without. I think discussing this in a christian school might be tricky.
This is the first in a trilogy, and like The Hunger Games, I'm hooked.
If after reading this, teenagers can get an appreciation for the little things in life, like hot showers and electricity, then that can only be a good thing!
Happy tales, and don't forget to stock up on the canned beans, *just in case!*