The Shade of the Moon

The Last Survivors

By Susan Beth Pfeffer

{Warnings for The Shade of the Moon: bigotry and sexual violence}

Alright, I’ll come out and say it: I didn’t enjoy this book. You won’t find a glowing review here. You won’t even find a dim-ray-of-hope review here.

The Shade of the Moon takes place three years (ish) after This World We Live In. This time, your narrator is Jon, Miranda’s younger brother. So this character has been around for a while, but we’ve never gotten to know him besides very basic traits and interaction through Miranda’s eyes in Life as We Knew It. Which would be fine if Jon turned out to be a likable character on his own. He is not.

By the time The Shade of the Moon comes along, Jon is about 16 years old. It’s apparent he is entitled and bigoted just a few pages in, and this makes him incredibly hard to like. Jon believes anyone living outside the main town where the “elites,” including himself, are undeserving of the very little they have. He and his friends burn down a school. He contemplates beating one of the “grubs” working in his household, essentially a slave. He treats his own family like trash for giving up their passes to allow him to live with the elites and be given an education and nutrition and opportunities they’d never see for the rest of their lives. “Grubs” he calls them.

But it gets worse. Much worse. Half of the book is spent with Jon agonizing over his guilt for “what I did to Julie,” who (spoilers for book 3 ahead) died at the end of This World We Live In. It’s implied that Jon raped Julie just before she died. And then, a few chapters later, Jon recounts the full story: no, he didn’t actually rape Julie, but that’s only because she got away. He says, in retrospect, that he would have stopped. That he loved Julie.

I don’t believe that for a second. A toddler knows what the words “no” and “stop” mean. There is absolutely no excuse for Jon’s behavior and I 100% blame him for Julie’s death. Julie, a 13-year-old girl, ran into a bad storm to escape Jon. This storm formed a tornado and the damage ultimately killed Julie.

Then we have Jon’s “friends.” They’re much worse than Jon. A good portion of Jon’s problematic behavior stems from inaction rather than direct action, but who you’re friends with reflects back to you. What behavior are you willing to condone? Apparently, Jon will condone a lot.

So, you have a main character and side characters that are absolutely impossible to like. The only reason I bothered finishing the book? It’s on my bookshelf, and I promised myself I’d read everything there. That’s it.

Let’s forget about bad characters for a moment and talk about the plot. That should be better, right? Nope, not really. The plot of The Shade of the Moon is . . . predictable and boring. Some of it makes sense, but the main resolution of the plot point is unbelievable and borders on ridiculous. The book really boils down to “entitled teenager finds out the whole world didn’t destroy itself to spite him.”

If I had to pick one book from this series that stood out from the rest, it would be The Dead and the Gone. It’s not even required to read Life as We Knew It to understand the plot. Personally, I’d recommend the first two books in the series: Life as We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone. The third, This World We Live In, is just okay and doesn’t add all that much. But The Shade of the Moon is unnecessary and you may genuinely be happier without it. I know I would be.

~ Anna
(Entry 15)

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