Maybe you’re already familiar with this book – judging by the number of Amazon reviews, it’s pretty well-known, and I understand that it’s required reading in a number of schools. But I haven’t been anywhere near a school reading list in a loooong time, so when I happened to spot it on a shelf in Barnes & Noble, it was something new.
Giant moon on the cover.
Yes, the full moon is something cool, and more often than not it sends me running for the binoculars. It’s also one of my great bugaboos – most of my seriously creepy nightmares involve an enormous moon looming there in the sky. (I’m talking BIG. Like on the book cover. Giant, look out, I-am-not-kidding-you moon.) But we try to conquer our fears, right? The tag line (“The weather finally broke…for good.”) was awesome, and the book wasn’t a typical size. When I picked it up, I liked the heft of it, and the old-school cheap paper it’s printed on. $8.99? Sold.
Story? In a nutshell: an asteroid hits the moon and knocks it askew, and its new position in the sky begins to wreak havoc on Earth. Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic explosions. The skies fill with ash and the sun more or less disappears. All of this is observed by a 16-year-old girl and chronicled in her diary.
Yes, some of the science is suspect. With no alphabet soup attached to my name, I can’t speak to how bad it is; I will say some of it had me doing an “Eh? What, now?” Ditto some of the everyday stuff. As someone who frets every single winter about losing power because it will mean my heat – natural gas, but the thermostat is electric – goes off, I was baffled by how Miranda’s furnace somehow works long after the electricity has failed. (About 3/4 of the way through the book, she finally explains that her father rigged up “a battery thing.”) It’s also somewhat bewildering that no one attempts to invade Miranda’s family’s home to steal their food and water. There is no anarchy in her town. Everyone’s polite, and other than one desperate plea from a neighbor, they all go about their own business, starving or freezing to death without ever running amok.
But… eh. I’ll let the author have that. Maybe there are places where the people would remain civil during an apocalypse, places where nobody would bust into your house with a gun and steal food away from you and your kids. Who’s to say? The more important thing to look at is the voice of the young narrator – an honest 16-year-old whose typical high-school life has been completely torn apart. A number of the Amazon reviews complain that she whines too much. That the story is boring. I suppose they expected those missing home invasions… or maybe some zombies. Instead, the story revolves around one of my favorite themes: quiet desperation. As things grow progressively worse, Miranda begins to remind herself that she should seize the day, no matter how bad it is, because tomorrow…
Maybe there won’t even be a tomorrow.
It’s thought-provoking. A reminder that we’re all at the mercy of things that could change on a dime. If you had a matter of hours to stockpile things that would keep your family alive for months – what would you grab? Would you realize right away that things you’ve valued will be useless tomorrow? It was of course of great interest to me that Miranda’s mother insists that family is all that matters – and to see how Miranda responds to that. Her story is a good one. Maybe not flawlessly told, but – I think – truly told.
Would you survive what’s essentially a nuclear winter? Would your family?
If you did… how would you feel when the lights came on again?
4 stars. Very family-friendly (no cussing that I remember; no sex). If your kids have to read it for school, grab a copy and talk about it with them. And let them know that nobody’s likely to survive if all they’re eating is canned vegetables.