It's been over a month since Miranda Evans has written in her diary, a month of relative calm for her and her family. It's springtime, and with warmer weather comes rain, and the melting of the winter's snow. The shad are running in a nearby river, and Miranda's brothers Matt and Jon leave home for a few days to see if they can catch some to supplement their food supply.
When they return, Matt brings with him a girl named Syl, who he introduces as his bride. But that's not the only shock Miranda and her family have to deal with. A few weeks later, Miranda's father, stepmother, and baby brother show up at her door. Accompanying them are three strangers, a man named Charlie Rutherford, and two teenagers, Alex and Julie Morales. These five people have crossed America together, becoming, in their own way, a family.
Miranda's complicated feelings about Alex, curiosity, resentment, longing, and passion turn into love. Alex's feelings are equally complex. His plans to escort Julie to a convent where she can be taken care of, so that he will be free to enter a monastery, are destined for failure. He wants desperately to live up to his moral code, but his desire for Miranda is too strong. He proposes to Miranda that they take Julie and go to a safe town. (from Goodreads)
In trying to write a review for a book that is part of a series, it is hard to not mention the previous books. So let me first say that if you have not read The Life We Knew or The Dead and Gone you will still enjoy Susan Pfeffer’s third book, but I would encourage you to read the other two first because This World We Live In will be a more personal journey if you do.
The reason I feel a personal connection to This World We Live In is Pfeffer’s talent of creating dynamic characters. As in her first book, Pfeffer chooses Miranda to unfold the story through her journal entries. Miranda’s voice is powerful and unmistakably real. She has survived in a world where everything a teenager takes for granted no longer exists: school, proms, dates, cell phones, friends. And Pfeffer does not try to portray Miranda as a martyr or a saint. In fact what I like most about Miranda is that she is flawed. She gets resentful, angry, and depressed and no one could possibly expect anything less under the circumstances, but these emotions are also the emotions most teenagers exhibit. Miranda is also insightful and passionate about her feelings good or bad.
The addition of Alex into Miranda’s life is another reason I felt personally connected to this book. I came to love Alex in The Dead and the Gone even more than Miranda. Alex is bull-headed and unwavering in his commitment to his goals. But like Miranda, he too is flawed. His attempts to always be right and take on the role of head of household has forced him to make decisions that haunt him, and makes it difficult to change his course of action, or admit that he is not infallible.
Naturally, Miranda and Alex develop a relationship. While many might think that their relationship lacks a certain amount of reality because it occurs so quickly after they meet, placed in the context of the world around them where nothing is as it once was, I was able to accept the short progression from dislike to love at face value.
Like most post-apocalyptic novels This World We Live In, is a stark look at “what if”. Pfeffer masterfully describes a world most of us with all our modern toys, gadgets, and everyday conveniences could not imagine, and her what if is a lot more conceivable than most. However, the different relationships and the characters’ struggles to maintain a semblance of normalcy is truly what creates a powerful and poignant story.
While it is not clear whether Pfeffer will continue this series further (though I would certainly read another one if she does), This World We Live In is a great third novel and one that should definitely be on everyone’s “to be read” list.