May 18. In the aftermath of the asteroid’s impact with the moon, Miranda struggles to organize her thoughts to write in her journal. She compares this to the way her mother organizes her thoughts when preparing to write a new book. It is clear from Miranda’s first lines that things did not go as planned. Miranda wants to talk to Hal to make sure he’s okay, but the phone lines have been giving nothing but busy signals for hours.
It is immediately clear in this entry that all is not well following the asteroid’s collision (which at the time of Miranda’s writing, has already occurred). Pfeffer establishes Miranda’s panicked mood through writing that is discombobulated, and she jumps in time within this entry to build suspense and add to the intensity and anxiety.
In her journal, Miranda jumps backward in her timeline to describe the day from the beginning—including a glimpse of a typical half moon in the sunrise sky and her anticipation about the night. She emphasizes how normal the day felt at school and the petty concerns she’d had about school, prom, friend drama, swim practice, and being bored in class.
All of this is to set the stage and create a contrast for the events to come that night. From the vantage point of just a few hours later, Miranda realizes how much her thoughts and feelings about the day have already changed.
Miranda, Laura, and Jonny have dinner together and plan to make a “party” of watching the asteroid’s impact with the moon. They had invited their neighbor Mrs. Nesbitt to join them, but she said she’d rather watch at home. Their mood is festive as they go outside with binoculars, Matt’s telescope, and a plate of cookies to join their neighbors in a makeshift block party, where people are out on their decks, barbequing, and standing in front of their houses staring at the sky. It gets quiet as they approach 9:30, and Jonny is the first to see the asteroid through Matt’s telescope. They all cheer when it appears in the sky.
Miranda emphasizes that the mood in her neighborhood was festive; she is creating a clear sense of before and after, with the asteroid’s appearance being the boundary between the two. And though she describes people as being outside, they don’t really join together or socialize. Miranda cares about her neighbors in the abstract collective, but except for Mrs. Nesbitt, who is “family,” she has no real bonds with them as individuals.
After the asteroid hits the moon, the mood quickly changes. Miranda says that the impact was shocking, and felt like an attack on “Our Moon.” The cheering changes to screaming as the moon’s angle shifts and its visibility increases from half to three-quarters while it simultaneously looms larger in the sky. Craters that were before only visible through the telescope can now be seen with just the naked eye, and the moon as a whole feels ominous. The attitude in the neighborhood is the panic Matt predicted, and when the Evanses try and call him they can’t get through. TV channels, cell signals, and the Internet are also not working when they attempt to check for news. Jonny asks if the world is coming to an end, and Laura reassures him that it’s not, and that he still has school in the morning.
Miranda’s first instinct is to personalize what has happened, throwing a possessive pronoun in front of ‘moon’ and describing how its changed appearance scares her. Laura’s immediate actions then foreshadow how she will deal with the aftermath: she attempts to contact Matt and checks the news. Prioritizing family and news will be Laura’s dual priorities for the rest of the story. But news, something that they had previously been able to take for granted, is now a precious commodity—its value increased as its access becomes erratic.
Matt calls from a payphone to report that conditions are the same in Ithaca, NY. Laura tries, but is unable to reach Hal or Grandma. The TV signal fades in and out as the Evanses stress-eat the whole plate of cookies and learn that because of the moon’s increased pull on the tides, there have been extensive tsunamis and coastal flooding. The Statute of Liberty has washed away; Cape Cod and all the barrier islands along the east coast are submerged. Laura worries about her publishers in Boston and New York, while Miranda is grateful that Matt and Hal are nowhere near the ocean.
Even the cookies that Laura had baked for the party are now part of the Evanses’ panic as they consume them without enjoying them while watching the slow reveal of news. The destruction of New York and Boston—and presumed death of all of Laura’s publishing contacts—marks the de facto end of her writing career (as at this point, the characters can only process such mass death through how it affects them personally). Though Miranda doesn’t realize it yet, her mother’s new job is navigating their family through the emergencies to come.
Laura attempts to reassure Miranda and Jonny that the news reports could be exaggerated, and that they are inland and safe. She says that the news tomorrow might be more accurate or optimistic. The TV reporter continued to list cities that are submerged, when he’s interrupted by a report from the White House confirming that hundreds of thousands have died on the eastern seaboard alone. Laura turns off the TV and sends them to bed. Miranda lies awake listening to reports on her clock radio about the similar devastation on the west coast. She can see the moon out her window—its new appearance frightens her.
Laura’s role throughout the book is attempting to shield her children from the harsh realities as much as possible. She almost always fails at this task, but never stops trying. It’s a character trait that Miranda also comes to develop, especially with regards to Jonny. While scared and grateful for her family’s safety, Miranda’s retreat to her bedroom to listen to the news alone marks her need for a private space to learn and process.