Posted by: kidsbooksreviews | April 25, 2008

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It is the book that led to the creation of this blog. I was asked to review it to see if it was appropriate for a K-4 building. In short, it’s not.

That’s not to say it’s not a wonderful book. It was gripping, and really explored how the moon affects our climate, and how families survive during crisis. My reasons for finding it inappropriate for younger readers stems mostly from two things: discussion of sexuality, and a central theme that can be a bit frightening for some kids.

(Highlight for spoiler text that may not be appropriate for younger readers)

I’ll address the sexuality primarily here, because it’s not mentioned on any of the reviews. Basically, it was pretty tame stuff. The main character has a friend who is promiscuous, and this is not depicted in a positive light. There is also a teen romance that does not progress beyond sneaking off for a few stolen kisses, but the character’s mother, upon discovering this, gets upset about it not being an appropriate time to worry about a teen pregnancy. The main character then contemplates why she would not have sex with her boyfriend (referred to as “making love”) and what she wants in that type of relationship first. It’s presented in a strong manner, and does endorse waiting for the “Right person”. Still, many parents of fourth and even fifth and sixth grade students may not be comfortable with this topic. I will note that it’s handled with a lot more subtlety than the majority of Judy Blume’s work. (end spoiler text)

Another thing to consider is something I didn’t pick up on, but is commented on in many of the reviews I read: Female relationships are not very strongly presented, there’s a “save the boy first” mentality (although it’s attributed more to his being the youngest), and there’s a slight anti-religion theme. This is one that I’d probably argue against, but there are several reviewers who were put off by the fact that the only character who is portrayed as religious belongs to a cult of sorts.

I think that this book is wonderful for mature readers (even in the lower elementary grades), but I highly suggest that parents and teachers review the book first and know the child they’re giving this book to well. By that, I mean have an awareness of whether or not the child can handle the issues presented by this book.

This book is part of a trilogy, with the third still being in progress. From what I’ve read on the author’s blog about the third book, I would NOT recommend this series to any child that would insist on finishing all three books if the parent of the child is not comfortable with the sexuality element or violence. For those that want to learn more about the series and author, visit the author’s website at http://www.lifeasweknewitbook.com.

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