Friday, June 5, 2015

Review - How I Live Now

How I Live Now
by Meg Rosoff
Date: 2004
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 211
Format: e-book

“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.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Well, that was a load of literary crap.  I really don't like books that try too hard... and this one tried so hard I think it might have burst a blood vessel.

Please, dear author, I want some more...

The basic premise of the story is decent, but it's not really what the synopsis suggests.  At about the 36% mark, Daisy and Piper get separated from the boys, and from then until the 85% mark, it's basically a survival story.  Not that there's anything wrong with that!  But the synopsis makes the book sound like it's this deep story about emotional connectivity... not two girls traipsing around the fields of England while surviving on nuts and berries.

It's all a matter of taste...

I knew, going into this book, that there was a "controversial" relationship between Daisy and her cousin Edmond.  That really didn't bother me.  What did bother me was Daisy herself.  She is inconsistent as a character, as well as being very unlikeable.  I could not relate to her, and for a large portion of the book, I wondered if she was actually a sociopath.  This was probably due to the dry, matter-of-fact way that she related the events in the book, but also because of her reactions to some of the events in the story and interactions with other characters.  Her "eating disorder" appears to be nothing more than an attempt to punish her widower father for daring to remarry.  She gets over her supposed anorexia by simply deciding that it's stupid to starve herself on purpose in the middle of a war.  That minimizes what those with true anorexia are going through; many of them know that their actions are harming their health, and yet they can't just "decide" to get over it.  So she's obviously starving herself as some sort of manipulation (which is something that should have been dealt with... but wasn't).  The other thing that made me wonder if Daisy wasn't quite right is her reaction to the beginning of the war and the absence of her aunt (who is trapped in Norway at the time).  The world is going to hell and you might have lost the only stable adult influence in your life, and your first reaction is, "Woo-hoo!  No adults!"  Daisy claims that they all felt that way, even nine-year-old Piper, which I find hard to believe.  I'm still not sure if the author was trying to make some sort of statement about Daisy, or if she really thinks that most teenagers would enjoy being separated from their parents during a war.

And there's the crux of the matter: I'm not sure what the author was trying to say, though I'm pretty sure she was trying to say something, because this book comes off like one of those boring literary works that we were all forced to read in high school English class.  The stream-of-consciousness style with paragraph-long sentences was annoying at first, and I only got used to it near the end... when Daisy suddenly started narrating in a more conventional way, complete with quotation marks and actual dialogue (which had been absent up until that point).  This made the book difficult to read.

Let's get technical...

The shift from present tense to past tense at the beginning of Chapter 13 was weird, but it was probably supposed to have some special meaning.  Aside from the writing style that I've already mentioned, there's not much else to say about the technical aspects of the writing.  Except maybe that naming your American characters things like Davina and Leonora suggests that you've been living in England for too long...

The verdict...

If this had been the book that the synopsis suggested, I might have enjoyed it more.  But there was so much about Daisy and Piper's survival, and I've seen that done better.  For a similar type of story, without the weird stylistic choices and unlikeable narrator, I'd suggest John Marsden's Tomorrow, When the War Began.

Quotable moment:

Now let me tell you what he looks like before I forget because it's not exactly what you'd expect from your average fourteen-year-old what with the CIGARETTE and hair that looked like he cut it himself with a hatchet in the dead of night, but aside from that he's exactly like some kind of mutt, you know the ones you see at the dog shelter who are kind of hopeful and sweet and put their nose straight into your hand when they meet you with a certain kind of dignity and you know from that second that you're going to take him home? Well that's him.

Only he took me home.

Premise: 3/5
Plot: 3/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 1/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 2/5
Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.13 out of 5 ladybugs


  1. Youch! This one sounds rough, like it took some concepts and styles that could've been interesting, but went totally awry. I like a synopsis that reveals little, but not ones that are misleading. :/ The way you describe her "eating order" is pretty worrisome, and I hate hearing about things like this in books because I really worry about how younger readers might view and take these things. And yeah -- I think in danger like that most kids would want their parents/adults around...heck even I would! I hope your next read is better!
    - Lina @ Every Book a World

    1. Yeah, I'd want my parents around in a situation like that, too. Wouldn't most people? I just couldn't wrap my brain around that aspect of the story.