Title: How I Live Now
Author: Meg Rosoff
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: 2013
Goodreads Summary: “Every war has turning points and every person too.”
Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.
As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary.
But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.
How I Live Now Book Review
I was a little reluctant to start reading How I Live Now as I was convinced that at 18 years old, I had already passed the prime age for reading a novel such as this. I had listened to friends ranting and raving about this novel since I was around the age of eleven so I expected to find a really good novel, but one that perhaps I wouldn’t be able to entirely relate to as I was too old. Fortunately, I was completely wrong and I greatly enjoyed the book.
How I Live Now is written from the first person perspective of Daisy, an American teenager forced to move to England by her new stepmother as there’s a new baby on the way and the move is deemed what’s ‘best’ for her. Thrust into an unknown world where she is surrounded by animals, nature and family as opposed to the cold city blocks of Manhattan, Daisy begins her new life in England. Whilst things seem to be going great for Daisy at first, war is brewing across the nation and her life gets turned upside down once again by its devastating effects.
Although this book is classified under ‘teenage’ fiction, I would highly recommend this to people of all ages. It is a touching story and the feistiness of Daisy, our protagonist, makes it easy to forget that she is only fifteen years old when these events take place. Daisy writes in a stream of consciousness style and there isn’t a single line of reported speech in the entire book which takes a bit of getting used to. It’s a little hard at first to figure out who’s saying what and some sentences are so long that I feel like I’m running out of breath just reading them, but this is all part of the style. The writing is so naturalistic that I really feel like I’m in Daisy’s head and her narrative is definitely what I would say the shining feature of this book is.
Something that I found incredibly confusing whilst reading the book was the time period in which it was set. Whilst it seemed fairly authentic in terms of its war setting there were references to Friday 13th (1980) and Lassie (1940) which made me question which war this book is set in. I firmly believed that this was set during WWII but having just looked the book up on wikipedia, it turns out it’s set in a fictional third world war. This was not clear at all. As far as I can remember there weren’t any references to the Internet or modern technology so there wasn’t really any indication at all that the story is set in the twenty-first century. In retrospect, perhaps there were some clues when Daisy describes her old life in the States, but the majority of the scenes of this book could’ve been taken straight out of WWII England in my opinion.
The trailer for the film adaptation of How I Live Now, as well as the movie book cover will make you believe that a large chunk of this novel is about teenage romance, which it isn’t really. There are a few elements of romance between Daisy and one of her cousins, which, now that I know this book is set in the 21st century, seem a little creepy. When I believed this book to be set in the 1940s, it seemed so much more normal for cousins to maybe fall in love, but in the century we’re currently living in, it is a topic that would most almost certainly be considered inappropriate in a young adult novel such as this.
All in all, How I Live Now is a brilliantly written novel that isn’t exactly filled with ‘action’, but it’s a story you grow fond of and it touches your heart. When I finished reading it I was really quite happy with the story and thought it was an excellent book, but in retrospect, the fact that I didn’t pick up that this novel is set in the 21st century makes me question it a little, as does the slightly incestuous relationship between Daisy and cousin. I shan’t let these things tarnish my opinion of the story now but they certainly would’ve had a bigger impact on me if I had known about them prior to reading this novel. Perhaps it is the fact that I’m a slightly older reader that made these things stand out to me now, as I never heard any of my friends mention these things when they read this story years ago. So in conclusion, I would highly recommend this book to all readers as it is a fascinating portrayal of how a teenager’s life is affected by war though, in my opinion, it is more likely to appeal to young-mid teens.