A look at HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff

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.


Before The Hunger Games, there was How I Live Now, a 2004 novel that won a Prinz award before dystopia was even a trend.

But this isn't primarily a dystopian novel, it is--in feel and structure--a literary novel. There is some violence, and Daisy ends up falling in love with her cousin (which is a bit strange, but works within the story). But ultimately there is very little in the book that is explicit.

I’m coming off this plane, and I’ll tell you why that is later, and landing at London airport and I’m looking around for a middle-aged kind of woman who I’ve seen in pictures who’s my Aunt Penn. The photographs are out of date, but she looked like the type who would wear a big necklace and flat shoes, and maybe some kind of narrow dress in black or gray. But I’m just guessing since the pictures only showed her face. 
Anyway, I’m looking and looking and everyone’s leaving and there’s no signal on my phone and I’m thinking Oh great, I’m going to be abandoned at the airport so that’s two countries they don’t want me in, when I notice everyone’s gone except this kid who comes up to me and says You must be Daisy. And when I look relieved he does too and says I’m Edmond. 
Hello Edmond, I said, nice to meet you, and I look at him hard to try to get a feel for what my new life with my cousins might be like. 
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.   
~ excerpt from How I Live Now

This book is an excellent example of the best thing about kidlit, the extensive backlist. Are there more dark YA books then there used to be? Maybe. But all the best books of the last decade are still readily available, if not in box stores, than in indie bookstores and online. This is a highly charged and compelling read, and an excellent choice if you want a book that is heartbreaking without graphic content.

Has anyone else read the book? What did you think?

(Want to win this book? Go here to enter my Thank-You Contest of Amazingness!)

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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.