Title: How I Live Now
Author: Meg Rosoff
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books, 2004
Where I got it: Took it out of the library.
15-year-old American-born Daisy is shipped off to stay with her aunt and cousins on their farm in England, when war breaks out. All is changed forever—Aunt Penn left for Oslo a few days before The Occupation, and Daisy and her four cousins are left alone to fend for themselves. In the beginning, it's wonderful—especially when Daisy and her cousin Edmond find they feel more for each other than just cousinly love. But they are soon forced to remember that they are living in the middle of a war, and paradise can't last forever.
I've heard others say this book is not so much about the war as it is about Daisy and her relationships. I'm going to have to disagree; this is unequivocally a war story, albeit one that heavily relies on the relationships between Daisy and her cousins, especially Edmond. The Enemy is never named, and we never find out who invaded, who is bombing, or who the foreigners are, making it that much scarier; it is deliberately left ambiguous. Life is not pretty when people around the country are dying, often violently, and despite the early days of ignorance for these five children, they learn this fast and the hard way.
At first the run-on style of Daisy's narration kind of bugged me, but as the story went on it started to fit really well with the events. Her rush to get the words out just worked with the events, though it did work much better once the war got into full swing. When she was just with her cousins it seemed out of place.
Another thing other people mentioned was the relationship between Daisy and Edmond, and how it didn't seem so strange, even if they are first cousins. I have to say, I couldn't quite forget all about it, and it did bother me a little, but not enough to stop reading the book. It would be a shame to put this one down because of that. The descriptions of war and how Daisy and her cousins managed to live through it are the real reason to read this. And yet, despite the triumph of surviving, it is quite a dark book with a somewhat problematic (though hopeful) ending.
This is another Printz Award-winner, and I have to say I like this one better than The White Darkness. The story kept me reading late into the night, and once I got past the beginning it was hard to put down. Rosoff gives us a horrific and graphic look at war from the perspective of a younger and reluctant participant, a girl who started off apathetic about the whole situation and is quickly forced to see that it does matter, even if you don't think it can touch you.
Did this deserve a Printz? I'd say probably. It is very well-written and is pretty powerful, not to mention does not shy away from gore or sexuality and has a pretty riveting plot. I liked it well enough, though I'm not sure it will stay with me for very long. I'll remember it for sure, but it won't be something I find myself deeply contemplating.
This reminded me of Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It, though I liked Pfeffer's book better. If you liked How I Live Now, you might want to consider taking a look at Pfeffer's trilogy.