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Razor Girl
      Life As We Knew It
Marianne Mancusi
      Susan Beth Pfeffer
Shomi/Dorchester Publications, 336 pages
      Harcourt, 347 pages

Marianne Mancusi
A multiple Emmy award winning television producer, she sold 11 novels to three publishers (Dorchester, Berkley, Dutton Children's) in less than three years. While best known for her time travel romantic comedies, Marianne also writes a vampire romance series and other books for teens and will have her first speculative fiction romance (Moongazer) out in August 2008. Marianne has worked in television stations around the country, including Orlando, San Diego, and Boston. A graduate of Boston University's College of Communications, she currently produces for a nationally syndicated lifestyle show. She lives in Manhattan's Upper West Side with her very sweet dog, Molly. She also enjoys snowboarding, clubbing, shopping, 80s music, and her favorite guilty pleasure--video games.

Author's websites: 1, 2,

Publisher websites:
1, 2

Author discussing Razor Girl on video: here

REVIEWS of Razor Girl: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Susan Beth Pfeffer
Susan Beth Pfeffer is the author of more than seventy books for children and young adults. Her bestselling book The Year Without Michael received a starred review from School Library Journal. It was also an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a Booklist Editors' Choice, and winner of the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award. Pfeffer is also the author of the popular Portraits of Little Women series as well as Kid Power, which won the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award and the Sequoyah Book Award. Her other novels for young adults include Twice Taken, Most Precious Blood, About David, and Family of Strangers. Life As We Knew It has won a number of awards, including the ALA Best Book for Young Adults, Junior Library Guild Premier Selection. Susan Beth Pfeffer lives in Middletown, New York.

Publisher's website
Author Bibliography
Author blog
Author Interview
REVIEWS of Life As We Knew It: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

Razor Girl
Life As We Knew It
Razor Girl and Life As We Knew It are both novels about teenage girls growing up to become young women under the impetus of having to survive after a planet-wide disaster. However, each takes a radically different approach to their subject. Both are entertaining reads, seemingly achieve the effect they intend, and neither suffers from major faults in their respective genres, though neither are entirely original or groundbreaking either. Razor Girl alternates and contrasts between "before" and "after," a biological plague, while Life As We Knew It follows a temporally linear path of building stress and ultimately despair.

Razor Girl's main character is inspired by a character from William Gibson's Neuromancer, the setting is reminiscent of Richard Matheson's (recently refilmed) I Am Legend and the threat is mutated infectious zombies à la George Romero. Even with its modern influences and themes, Razor Girl has a distinct sensationalistic pulp æsthetic, which Marianne Mancusi herself admits is part of the entertainment over substance targeted by the book. In contrast, Life As We Knew It is very matter of fact, much more about personal growth and interpersonal relationships, than action. While Susan Beth Pfeffer has stated that her main inspiration for Life As We Knew It was the film Meteor (1979); however, I see much stronger parallels, both in plot and in general character dynamics between Life As We Knew It and the beautifully understated Oscar-nominated Testament (1983) -- which gets my vote as the most frighteningly realistic film on the days/months immediately following a nuclear strike. A literary parallel might be Judith Merrill's Shadows on the Hearth (1950), though it has been quite a while since I read it.

Given its influences and its strong romantic elements, Razor Girl is probably better suited to somewhat older readers than Life As We Knew It. While in the latter there are a few instances of intense kissing, in Razor Girl the relationship is fully consummated, albeit in a tasteful and non-gratuitous manner. Similarly the level of violence in Razor Girl, as the name might suggest, is fairly high, whereas essentially no violence occurs in Life As We Knew It. Similarly , given the two books' different approach, largely action over emotion, Razor Girl is told from a 3rd person perspective and involves a road trip, whereas Life As We Knew It's 1st person narratrix -- through her diary -- stays put in and around her home and nearby town.

Razor Girl tells of the pre- and post-plague life of Molly Anderson, 15 and coping with high school before, 21 and cybernetically enhanced, coming out after 6 years sealed in a fall out shelter. Molly has a father who makes Fox Mulder and Dr. Moreau (or Dr. Lerne if you're French) sound positively well-balanced. By the time the plague hits, he has converted his daughter into a partial cyborg, with a mission to seek him out after six years' residence in a spruced up fallout shelter, and in so doing save the world. It seems a bit silly that he would put all his eggs in one basket, and that his daughter would psychologically survive 6 years sealed in with a depressed, drug addicted mother, but this isn't really the point, but rather how she and a now psychologically scarred friend from her past, Chase Griffin, manage to juggle, a pack of young uninfected children, a rekindled and burgeoning love, decaying nanoenhancements, drug addiction, and a 400 mile road trip through the zombie-infested US Southeast, on the way to meet up with papa and save the world. OK, it sounds a wee bit silly, but it is entertaining while it lasts.

While in Life As We Knew It not everything is perfectly scientifically plausible regarding the collision of a meteor shifting the moon's orbit much closer to the Earth, without the orbit decaying and the moon creating a great BIG splash, the consequences of the new orbit, tsunamis and increased seismic and volcanic activity are, by and large, what one would expect. But as with R.C. Sheriff's The Hopkins Manuscript (1939), where a hollow moon falls into the Atlantic Ocean, crumbles and forms a land-bridge between Europe and North America (while having a fairly minimal effect on human populations), absolute scientific accuracy isn't the point, but rather the author focuses on how humanity, or in particular, one family as seen through the eyes of one of its members, deals with the new conditions. Again, one might point out that little looting or violence occurs 'on-screen' in Life As We Knew It, and that the family are rather serendipitously saved from starving, but again the focus here is really on family dynamics. Similarly, in George W. Stewart's post-plague narrative Earth Abides (1949) the focus is on the surviving community and less so on specific events. Given the focus Life As We Knew It it presents a psychologically plausible portrayal of a family, with daily ups and downs, and a growing despair and resignation as food supplies dwindle down to near nothing. Like Merrill's Shadows on the Hearth and the film Testament, it is the women, the mother and daughter in this case, who sacrifice themselves and hold together the family, while the father is absent (divorced and remarried) and the other main adult male character, a doctor, dies midway through the book.

The other main adult male character in Life As We Knew It is the minister of a conservative Christian group. However, unlike the merely blindered and ineffectual priest in H.G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds (1898), this horribly self-serving man selfishly feeds off his congregation -- a portrayal that might offend some readers. However, the at times graphic language and situations of Razor Girl would likely also offend such readers.

Both titles are enjoyable within the niche they have chosen to occupy, if you want a light beach read, opt for Razor Girl, if you want something emotionally involving, opt for Life As We Knew It.

Copyright © 2008 by Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist whose interests lie predominantly in both English and French pre-1950 imaginative fiction. Besides reviews and articles at SFSite and in fanzines such as Argentus, Pulpdom and WARP, he has published peer-reviewed articles in fields ranging from folklore to water resource management. He is the creator and co-curator of The Ape-Man, His Kith and Kin a website exploring thematic precursors of Tarzan of the Apes, as well as works having possibly served as Edgar Rice Burroughs' documentary sources. The close to 100 e-texts include a number of first time translations from the French by himself and others. Georges is also the creator and curator of a website dedicated to William Murray Graydon (1864-1946), a prolific American-born author of boys' adventures. The website houses biographical, and bibliographical materials, as well as a score of novels, and over 100 short stories.

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