Author: Meg Rossoff
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, War
Publication Date: 5th August 2004 (publisher Penguin)
Reminds me of: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (minus the supernatural), The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (minus the arena of death)
There are three books on my bookshelf I’ve read about ten times each. The covers are just about ready to fall off and the spine is so heavily creased the title is barely legible. They are my absolute favourite novels of all time and I still get the same thrill from each of them.
I first read How I Live Now when I was fourteen and it was just haunting. I honestly could not stop thinking about it long after I’d finished the last page. So I read it again. And then again. It’s witty and intriguing. Gripping and beautiful. And finally, just a little bit of a tear jerker.
How I Live Now follows the story of our protagonist, fifteen year old Daisy. She’s shipped off from Manhattan to England after her father and step-mother decide her eating disorder has gotten out of hand. Daisy resides with her four cousins, who she’s never met up until now, on their farm property. Her aunt leaves the country for business soon after her arrival, and the farm becomes an idyllic haven where no adults have any presence.
When London is bombed, war breaks out. Initially this has very limited impact on the farm apart from the loss of all power. The cousins relationships delve into new spaces and reckonable bonds are formed. But eventually their haven is invaded and the unnamed enemy tramples over everything they’ve built together. Very quickly the story transforms to one about survival as this dystopia consumes their world.
There are elements that can be labelled as controversial… but to base your appreciation of the book on those elements would be to completely miss the point. It’s about how the unexpected forces people to click into survival mode, not only for yourself, but for those you love.
The character of Daisy is one of my all time favourites. She’s the anti-heroine: she’s her own obstacle and steadfast and just so difficult for everyone else to deal with. But it’s her way of retelling and remembering that’s just so empowering. This is one of my favourite quotes from her (about her step-mother) which I think summarises her character succinctly:
…thinking about Davina the Diabolical who sucked my father’s soul out through his you-know-what and then got herself knocked up with the devil’s spawn which, when it pops out, Leah and I are going to call Damian even if it’s a girl”.
Stylistically, Rosoff is so unique: between the simplicity of her descriptions, the unconventional branding of grammar utilised and the lack of back-story she omits. I think the way she’s formatted her novel is the idealistic way a first person narration should be told. Daisy’s lack of structure reflects the uncertainty of the war, relationships, and her overall mentality.
If you’re a grammar nut I recommend putting those urges on hold for the duration of this novel, because if you can’t Stand Random Capitilisation, SHOUTING LIKE THIS, and zero speech marks, you’re going to find it rather difficult. It doesn’t matter though, because you NEED to read this book.
On another note, it was made into a movie last year. If you’ve seen it let me know your thoughts! I’d love to exchange ideas!