How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Wendy Lamb Books - YA/Fiction/War
How I Live Now is a book that has gotten such polarized reviews that I added it to my wish list, took it off, added it, took it off and finally decided I really did want to read the book. So, I ordered a copy and then stuck it on a shelf and ignored it. How rude.
A wonderful review at A Book Every Six Days finally convinced me to dig for my copy. A few days later, I located my copy on Grandpa's shelf (a shelf so named because my grandfather built it) and dragged the copy with me to Nashville during our Christmas break, where I opened it and read the book when Spellbinder wasn't holding my interest.
How I Live Now is a young adult novel told by Daisy in her own words. Daisy, an American, is fifteen when the story begins. She's been shipped off to England to live in the countryside with four cousins she has never met. Their mother -- apparently a single mother -- is some sort of politician or ambassador and she leaves on business within days. Then, war breaks out.
At first, as England is occupied by an unnamed enemy, the family is untouched. Power and phone lines fail, but the family lives on a farm and they're isolated enough that they're aware of what's going on, but they have better access to food and are safer than most. Those first few months of the war are almost idyllic for the cousins. Daisy falls madly in love with lanky Edmond, and they embark on a ridiculous sexual affair that everyone knows about but which makes her other cousins uncomfortable enough that they feel safe and happy in their blind love. And, then the reality of war arrives at the farm.
Daisy and her young cousin Piper are separated from the boys and an act of senseless violence brings home the reality of war. Daisy and Piper leave the house to which they were sent, determined to find Edmond and his twin, Isaac. It's been long enough that I can't recall the order of their travels, but I'm not so sure that matters. When they go off on their own, Piper and Daisy are constantly in danger. At some point, they end up in a barn with soldiers but the enemy attacks and they're helped by one young soldier they've befriended. He sends them off with a survival package.
This is the part I liked best -- when the two girls are forced to walk, hide, forage for food, deal with weather and illness and storms. It rang true to books I've read about survival during war -- constant fear, aching bellies, the feeling of having to live in the same filthy clothing for months, the insect bites and the knowledge that if they're found they could end up being raped or murdered. Daisy and Piper are already close, but become even closer as they're forced to rely upon each other.
There's a second section of the book that takes place some time after the war. Daisy hasn't seen her cousins for years. The aftermath of the war is explained in vague terms. How did Daisy end up in New York? What happened to Edmond, Isaac, Piper and Osbert? Did Aunt Penn ever make it back from Europe? The author made Daisy's thoughts a little more vague in this section and I didn't care for that. She's no longer a rambling teenager whose thoughts are read in run-on sentences. That's understandable; but, she dangles the reader a bit and the change in style reeked of "writing device" to me. I was disappointed with how that last section was written. But, I made a conscious decision to figure out what the heck had happened and fill in the rest of the blanks on my own.
In general, I loved How I Live Now.
4/5 - Immediate and visceral, sometimes painfully realistic, often uncomfortable. I loved the relationships, the characters and their idiosyncracies, the special abilities that eventually help two of the cousins to survive. While I disliked the vagueness of the latter section, it wasn't enough to totally ruin the book for me.
Woohoo! That's 6 reviews down, 4 to go. Although, actually, I finished Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott, last night, and I'm on the verge of finally finishing Veracity by Laura Bynum -- which I have found an engrossing read but dark enough that I've occasionally had to set it down and pick up something lighter to give me a break from the relentless horror of Bynum's dystopian world.
More reviews are coming, although I think I might stop to read for a bit. There's still a human behind these reviews, but I probably won't write a chatty post till I'm caught up, apart from this one tidbit:
An Update on Spellbinder: The teenager gave up on it. He said it wasn't keeping his attention. So, we're in agreement. Spellbinder is a "nyeh" book. The most recent book that truly captured Kiddo's interest? The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima, a fantasy he described as "too complex to get into, but could you order me the rest of the books?" Apparently, The Demon King is the first in a series and the next has not yet been released, so he'll have to wait.
How is everyone doing? Feel free to drop by and tell me. It gets really quiet when I chug out reviews without babbling at the end of each of them. It's sunny and lovely in Vicksburg. Yesterday, I was bizarrely exhausted. Three espressos couldn't perk me up for more than 45 minutes, so I had a mostly-horizontal day. When I was up, I kept breaking things so Kiddo just kept shoving me toward the futon. It was pretty funny.
Off I go. Talk later!
Bookfool has trouble shutting up, you know.