You know you’re reading a few too many books about natural disasters, war, and survival when you find yourself considering the leftover prescriptions meds in your cupboard and the canned food in your storage room. But I’m not regretting it in the least. Reading How I Live Now was sort of like curling up by the fire on a cold night – it’s cozy, but the heat is intense, so you better know what you’re getting into. It was a commitment, but I was hooked, and if I had had my way, I would’ve read it in one sitting.
“Mostly everything changed because of Edmond.” (page 1)
Teenage New Yorker Daisy is sent to live with her cousins in England. The feeling was mutual – she and Davina the Diabolical, i.e. her pregnant stepmother, had had enough of each other. Just when she thinks two countries don’t want her, she finds her cousin Edmond waiting to take her to his family’s estate in the country. Immediately, Daisy knows she’s not in New York anymore. After spending a blissful, perfectly happy summer with no adult supervision, “The Enemy” has attacked London, and it’s not long before war is at their door.
I’m not exactly sure why I liked this book so much, but I think part of it was the premise. In an age of terrorism, being invaded and occupied and bombed and having no electricity, power, water, or food – THIS COULD HAPPEN. The story was timely, but also real. Meg Rosoff does not leave out any of the unpleasant, gritty details. This hit home in a compelling way.
It was also the protagonist that made this read so powerful. Daisy is a subversive, witty teenager who rises to the occasion but not without her moments of immaturity. Her voice feels real as she recounts her life from it’s turning point. A fifteen-year-old would not know all the politics and names and details of The War and The Enemy. She would only pay attention to how what and who affected her and those around her.
But what I liked most about How I Live Now was the writing style. Rather than using the traditional ways of writing dialogue, Rosoff tells the story by blending Daisy’s hindsight, real-time thoughts and emotions, and the bare-minimum necessary dialogue all in single paragraphs, using only capitalization to distinguish and give expression to what’s actually spoken. It’s her own brand of stream-of-consciousness writing, and I loved it. From the first page and anytime Daisy hinted at what was to come, I was mesmerized. I had to experience her plight and learn her fate, and what I found surpassed my expectations. When I’m ready to sink into another of Rosoff’s books, I can’t wait to read her latest adult novel What I Was.