20 January 2009

BOOK CLUB - FEB - the dead & the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Susan Beth Pfeffer’s the dead and the gone is the companion book to Life as We Knew It, the 2009 Teen Selection for One Book New Jersey (www.onebooknewjersey.org).

Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its brutal but hopeful look at an apocalyptic event--an asteroid hitting the moon, setting off a tailspin of horrific climate changes. Now this harrowing companion novel examines the same events as they unfold in New York City, revealed through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican Alex Morales. When Alex's parents disappear in the aftermath of tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland, and food and aid dwindle. With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful new novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities. (

Ø Have you thought about what you would do given some cataclysmic event? Have you a plan? How can your family stay safe and together in the event of an emergency? Where would you go? What emergency supplies do we have, and where are they kept? Do you have a basement full of canned goods?

Ø What is the likelihood of these types of events taking place? What are more likely scenarios that might cause this type of disruption to normal life?

Ø How far would you go to survive? Would you share? Steal? Hoard? What happens to our humanity in the face of imminent extinction?

Ø How is the dead and the gone different from Life as We Knew It? How was the situation different in a rural v. urban setting?

Ø How is religion portrayed in the dead and the gone and what is its effect on the characters’ actions? How does race and social class affect the situation? What is the impact of geographical location?

Ø What was your reaction to the scene at the stadium? Could you put yourself in Alex’s shoes?

Ø How do characters evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes? What is Alex’s relationship with his friends and family like before and after the catastrophe, and how do they change over the course of the story?

Ø How do you think you would have been like or unlike Miranda in this situation?

Ø Were there things you wanted to know that the author didn’t tell you?

Ø Do you have any predictions or hopes for the third book that Susan Beth Pfeffer is writing?

Some discussion questions for Life as We Knew It:

Ø What was the first major catastrophe that happened when the moon was knocked out of its orbit?

Ø What happened to Rhode Island? If you managed to escape, where would you go? Why?

Ø What were some of the effects of the catastrophe? Why is electricity such an essential utility?

Ø What happened to the climate during the summer? How did the family cope?

Ø Miranda’s family was isolated from the community during the winter. In what ways was this both good and bad? What was the decision that Miranda faced at the end of Life as We Knew It?

Ø What were some of the kids’ first reactions in school the next day? How do you think you might have felt? What do you think shaped Miranda’s reaction (family, friends, religion)?

Ø Miranda’s mom exhibited foresight in dealing with the seriousness of the situation. What are some of the things she did to increase her family’s chances of survival? Do you think that Miranda’s mother should have donated materials to a less fortunate family?

Ø Who do you credit with Miranda’s family’s ability to survive overall?

Ø This book champions the family unit. Do you think there were other ways to handle the catastrophe, besides relying only on family? Would a cooperative approach stand a chance?

Ø Is Miranda’s mom really prioritizing Jonny? What else could be going on? What are her motives?

Ø What was your reaction to the scene were Miranda finds the chocolate chips in the pantry?

Ø Do you think Miranda really skated with Brian Erlach that one time?

Ø Do you think Dad and Lisa made it to Colorado? Why or why not?

Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts! Also, let us know if you have an activity or snack ideas. :)

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