How I Live Now boasted a concept right up my alley: in the not-so-distant-future, England has been attacked by an unnamed enemy and 15-year-old American Daisy is in the wrong place at the wrong time. She's been sent to stay with her cousins and aunt at their country home by her absentee father and her new pregnant stepmother. Of course, everything quickly goes horribly awry as her politician Aunt Penn is detained away from the home by the fighting and the kids are left to fend for themselves in the middle of a war-torn nation.
It's a good foundation, but I had some problems with How I Live Now. First of all, there's Daisy. As a narrator, she actually embodies everything that frustrates me about today's teenagers. The book is written in her voice, meaning there are lots of really long sentences without proper punctuation, Totally Unnecessary Capitalizations for Emphasis and a view of the action and world events filtered through the observations of a self-centered teenager. I almost quit reading the book because her voice annoyed me so much.
Another thing that may raise the hackles of some readers is Daisy's relationship with her 14-year-old cousin, Edmond. As in, their romantic relationship. I understand that in England and many other countries, marrying your first cousin isn't illegal or frowned upon, but I had a hard time stomaching their relationship. It was very romantic and I understand why they came together under the extraordinary circumstances they were facing, but I couldn't get over the fact that these two teenage lovebirds were first cousins. And having sex. Yick.
The book had a few other issues -- there are a few things the author hints at and never explores, and I would have liked more information abou the war. It provides a good effect though -- the reader doesn't know any more about what is going on than the teenagers do.
The ending is unsatisfying, but the book is worth a read. Rosoff has created an intriguing dystopian view, and despite my frustrations with her heroine, I enjoyed the book as a one-time read.
From the moment I started this book I was thinking and through out it I came to conclusions. Definately not one of those books you can skip passages in so you can get to the action. The ending, although not a running through the fields sort of happy ending, did end on a positive note.
There are a few things in this book that could have been explained: is it set in the future? If so how far? They have cell phones and computers, but they are in a WWII style war.
Is this a magical world? It's never really said whether what goes on with Edmond is telepathy or just being really intuitive.
But, once you get over these unanswered questions (and you can just decide for yourself since they don't really affect the outcome of the book) it's a great read.
It's also one of those books where you either love it, or hate it.
This is a great read not only for teens but for adults as well that like to discuss books with their teens. The premise of a third world war is a subtle subplot. It shows kids what will be important and what won't in the event of a disaster of any kind. There are some controversial topics (anorexia, incest,) that are important for young people that are handled in a very low key non threatening way that will draw the reader in. I look forward to reading more from this author.
Written with an unusual writing style using sparse punctuation and dialogue, Daisy's teenage wit and humor keeps this story from becoming totally depressing. Besides relying on their wits to survive, other serious situations including violence, forced isolation, and separation from loved ones, jolted me more than once into thinking "this is not the life a child should live, but I know they do."
Because the content can be harsh and uncomfortable for some younger readers, it has cross-over appeal for the adult reader.
This was a difficult book to read, but I don't regret that I did.
Cut to the chase: yes, this is an interesting book, worth reading. I would recommend it to a friend.
There are some caveats, however. First, this is not a happy story. Like much YA fiction (think Hunger Games), the future the writer imagines is bleak. And, given the drum beat of news this summer from Syria, Kenya, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., that future is not unimaginable. From the perspective of the 15 year old narrator, terrorists have taken over England by guerilla means: a few well placed bombs in big cities, poison in the water supply, destruction of electricity-generating facilities. The people are forced to live by their own resources, mostly in the countryside, scrabbling for food. The narrator says she has no idea who the terrorists are, what they represent, or why they have done what they have done. And that sounds depressingly familiar.
Some have objected to the sexual love affair between the two cousins. Pshaw. Yes, they fall in love and have sex. But the author refrains from anything remotely explicit. It is very tame stuff, and not beyond the bounds of believability. After all, these cousins, one British, one American, have never met before the beginning of the book, and have no history together that might make their relationship smarmy.
Others have noted the limitations of a limited first person narrator. Yes, that's true. Sometimes the reader wishes for more detail, or more insight--neither of which Daisy, the American, has--not for herself, and not for us. This is especially clear in the ending of the book where the characters are left in a somewhat unsatisfactory limbo. No spoilers, here.
Anyway--this is a quick read, worth the time, and strangely unsettling given the state of the world today.
First things first, this story of an American girl going to live with her cousins in England only to find themselves cut off from the world by terrorism is *not* really about incest. Incest does occur, yes. But it is not focused on very much and mostly occurs off-screen. What this book is really about is growing up surrounded by the uncertainty in a world of terrorism. Daisy's narration is incredibly appealing, and the first 2/3 of the book do an excellent job of expressing the feelings young people are growing up with in the world today. Unfortunately, the end of the book kind of goes off the rails with an out of left field scenario that seems to belong in an entirely different book.
Recommended for fans of YA dystopia with a focus on terrorism who don't mind a bit of an off-putting ending.
I found this book to be just ok. I mainly picked it for the interesting cover, and it never really left an impression on me, a good one at least. It was sweet until somewhere around the middle when some strange and frankly kind of disturbing relationships occur. I wouldn't recommend this for younger teens.