Title: The Shade of the Moon
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Series: Life As We Knew It Series (Book 4)
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (August 13, 2013)
Amazon Review: 3.6/5 stars
I purchased this e-book through Amazon.com
Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com
The eagerly awaited addition to the series begun with the New York Times best-seller Life As We Knew It, in which a meteor knocks the moon off its orbit and the world changes forever.
It’s been more than two years since Jon Evans and his family left Pennsylvania, hoping to find a safe place to live, yet Jon remains haunted by the deaths of those he loved. His prowess on a soccer field has guaranteed him a home in a well-protected enclave. But Jon is painfully aware that a missed goal, a careless word, even falling in love, can put his life and the lives of his mother, his sister Miranda, and her husband, Alex, in jeopardy. Can Jon risk doing what is right in a world gone so terribly wrong?
Is there something wrong with me? Have I become cynical and too critical? Did becoming a writer mean death to my unadulterated enjoyment of fiction?
Yes, I’m being overly dramatic, but I have a reason. Really. You see, eight years ago I decided to become a writer. I did this mostly in a vacuum, writing and editing with no outside input and no effort into studying my craft. Consequently, when reading other’s published books, I could concentrate on the story, the characters, the way it made me feel.
Fast forward several years and we get to the point in my life where I started interacting with other writers, receiving and giving critique, reading books, articles, and blog posts on writing, and reading critically. It wasn’t overnight, but I learned.
Which brings me to now, and my difficulty enjoying said stories without thinking about how the author could have written it better. Don’t jump to conclusions and think I’m saying that I am a better writer. What I’m saying is, I recognize good writing now, where I didn’t before. My ability to create it is still in question.
So what does that have to do with The Shade of the Moon? Well, when I read the first three novels in the series several years ago, I loved them. Absolutely loved them. The characters, the plot, the utter dismal outlook and unabashed look at how life would be if Pfeffer’s world came true. Yet, they were still written for a teen audience. Pfeffer didn’t shy away from the horrors of a post-apocalyptic world, she just didn’t revel unnecessarily in the details. It worked for me. Tell me there’s mud, but don’t make me wallow in it. I come equipped with my own imagination and I love an author who lets me use it.
Needless to say I was looking forward to reading this fourth, and sounds like final, installment in the series, so imagine my disappointment when the writing didn’t measure up to my memories of the past novels. I think I can explain some of this without saying Pfeffer is a bad writer. Because she’s not. She’s older, in fact after this book she decided to retire after thirty years and 78 books. 78 books! Can you imagine that? But Pfeffer is from a different time, a different era, where books for teens and children were written in a more simplistic manner. And she continued that style through out her career. There is a natural simplicity to her work that although it can be called telling, not showing, it’s good telling. **deep breath** I’m afraid I will be critical of Pfeffer’s writing in this review, but keep all that I’ve already said in mind as you read.
This book started out a little slow for me. Combined with the conflicts I felt about the writing style made it difficult to fully invest in the story and the characters. We are introduced to Jon’s point of view, which is something I enjoyed about Pfeffer’s previous novels. They are not all from the same person’s POV. But there was a lot to catch up on. It’s been two years since the characters left Pennsylvania in hopes of finding a safe enclave with the three passes they have. This is where the book gets a little sticky. Some characters have died. Some have married. Some are pregnant. And there’s a whole list of new characters and terms to learn and get used to. Suffice it to say there’s a lot to remember. Which was another problem, albeit something I can live with.
One interesting difference between this book and the previous three is that it is not just post-apocalyptic. It borders on dystopia. Or at least it gives some insight into how a dystopian society could start. It’s actually quite chilling how Pfeffer slowly brings you into the scary world Jon lives in. I never really liked Jon the entire story, but you could sympathize with him and understand why he did the things he did. Pfeffer shows us how one could be seduced by a sense of entitlement combined with the fear of losing it, justifying all kinds of atrocities to yourself. The slow build intensifying the fear and uncertainty as you progressed through the story was done well.
Another thing she does well is the bad guys. Through bits of dialog and many actions Pfeffer demonstrates the psyche, however twisted, behind the mindset of these people. It’s truly sickening, but unfortunately realistic. I could imagine these people existing. Who they were before the PA event and who they are after. They’re in control of this country now, and God help us if they ever get unlimited control. I’m sure we’d all be grubs, assuming we survived in the first place.
The dialog, unfortunately was very unnatural. It took me out of the story too often. And Jon’s love interest was a poorly developed character. Plus, Jon meets her maybe twice and the next thing we know they’re kissing. I needed more to justify his attraction and sacrifice for a girl who he was told by powerful friends to stay away from. Considering everything he does to ensure his and his family’s security, you’d think blowing off a girl you’ve had two conversations with would be no big deal. I guess not.
I was literally 46% into the book before I was so caught up in the story I barely noticed the problems I had with the writing style. I know, because my Kindle told me. Though I prefer a hardcover, there are some good things about e-readers. But 46% is pretty far in to hook your reader. Not everyone is as stubborn as me. Some people will just give up. But I digress. So at that point, about Part Two, I was hooked. Even though I didn’t much like Jon or Sarah (his one-dimensional love interest), I still cared about what happened to him (not so much her) and all of Jon’s family. The big plot twist I saw coming, though not very quickly, so I wasn’t surprised, but it was still interesting. And based on Pfeffer’s previous books there was no guarantee these characters were going to make it out alive. Of course, some of them don’t, but I won’t ruin anything for you.
So I think I’ve droned on enough for one book review. In summary the writing was simplistic. Pfeffer tells instead of showing. The dialogue is stilted and unnatural and she moves too quickly through parts of the story and lingers over others she could have skipped. But if you read and enjoyed the previous books then you have to finish off the series. And if you don’t have my neurotic issues with writing styles then read the whole series. It’s actually very good. An asteroid hits the moon, knocking it of course and changing the gravitation of the earth which wreacks havoc on the tides, causes earthquakes and volcanoes erupt everywhere, even places they never existed before. Add on characters who are exactly like all of us: selfish, self serving, narcissistic. Throw them into previously described apocalypse and what’s not to love?
My review: 3/5 stars (I took away points for the writing, but added for the fact that I loved the story when you take the whole series into account)
Buy Life As We Knew It (Life As We Knew It Series) on Amazon.com
Buy The Dead and the Gone (The Last Survivors, Book 2) on Amazon.com
Buy This World We Live In (Life As We Knew It Series) on Amazon.com