Reading Backwards

Book reviews by your favorite Git.

How I Live Now

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By Meg RosoffHow I Live Now
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Read: August 2006
Rating: Awesome

I loved this book. I finished it within a day because it was so good. It was recommended to me by my good friend Sreya and she was so right.

The novel is narrated by Daisy, a girl who grew up in New York under inauspicious circumstances. Her father, not sure what else to do with her, sends her overseas to stay with her deceased mother’s sister. Daisy’s cousins live in the countryside, on a large property that includes some farmland though they don’t use it to make their living. Their mother, Aunt Penn, is an activist who goes to Oslo to try to broker peace before a war breaks out.

It is the current day, or sometime in the near future. They have all been used to the wonders of electricity and petrol in their cars. But then The Occupation begins, and the children are stranded alone without Aunt Penn.

It is idyllic at first. Though none of them say it, they all think it: It’s freakin’ cool to be living without adults! For most of the summer Daisy and her cousins live happily. They spend their days going where they like. But each trip into the village for supplies becomes more depressing–everyone is trying to figure out What’s Really Going On. Then the military discovers that the farm is huge and they evict the children to use it as a base.

That’s when the real trouble begins.

Separated from the only family she’s ever really loved, Daisy vows to reunite them. She and Piper, her nine year old, dog whispering cousin, are passed between well-meaning adults, witness horrors, and ultimately must rely on their wits alone to survive.

What keeps this book alive is Daisy herself. She’s smart and snarky–a bit like Louise Rennison’s Georgia. She is wholly honest in her descriptions, and often amusing. As her situation becomes more and more serious, her quirky attitude remains, but is never flippant. Most charming is her own acknowledgement of the ways in which love for her cousins has changed her. She becomes protective, and willing to push forward to save them.

There are some squiffy elements that make this a book for older readers. In case you needed reminding, this is a war. And there are some very gruesome images. Daisy herself used food as a weapon against her father when she lived in New York–a sort of deliberate anorexia. As food becomes more scarce, she starts to desire hearty meals more, and even she points out the irony in this. I would consider this a potential help to those with eating disorders, as the message is that some things are more important. When the world comes to pieces, you have to let go of your neuroses.

The last element that’ll have some up in arms is the relationship between Daisy and her cousin Edmond. There are no graphic descriptions, but Daisy makes it very clear that there is lust between them, and love. Make of it what you will.

And the sci fi/fantasy elements? Very small, but enough. In the beginning Daisy jokes about her cousins and how some have the uncanny ability to know what you’re thinking, or ‘talk’ to animals. They all seem a little bit psychic. When separated from Edmond, she swears that there are times when they commune, in the dreamy place between sleep and wakefulness. “I believe in the spirit world about as not at all as the next person. I’m just saying what happened.”

There are elements that remind me of WWII stories. Since no enemy is named, it could be anyone–although “the tabloids waxed nostalgic for the good old days of WWII, when the enemy all spoke a foreign language and the army went somewhere else to fight.” The attacks on London seem like modern terrorists. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. They’re kids, and the Good Guys and the Bad Guys might as well be the same sometimes.

I love this book. It’s an accurate depiction of kids, and kids left alone in hard times. Daisy is completely human. And the way in which Rosoff writes is fabulous. There are no quotes when people speak… until it becomes very significany to add them back in. I didn’t find it difficult to read, as Daisy still capitalizes often. (And often humorously.)

The ultimate message? Life is messy. It is always very, very messy, and there’s not much you can do about it but go on. And try to love.


Written by Shen

August 18, 2006 at 5:17 pm

5 Responses

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  1. I have yet to hear a bad review about this book. It’s a Young Readers Choice Award nominee this year, and the teen group I supervise at the library I work at read it for their book club last month and loved it too.


    August 20, 2006 at 11:28 pm

  2. […] How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (Review) […]

  3. i did not like it for she married her cousin!!!!



    December 14, 2007 at 12:40 pm

  4. best book ever


    February 13, 2008 at 9:25 am

  5. […] How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (Review) […]

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