Monday, January 24, 2011

"How I Live Now" by Meg Rosoff

Summary: Daisy arrives in England to live with her cousins--Osbert, Isaac, Edmond, and Piper.  She's not thrilled to be there, but she's glad to be away from her "evil" stepmother and ambivalent father.  Once there Daisy finds a relative peaceful existence on her cousins' farm as she grows closer with Edmond and Piper in particular.  Left alone when Aunt Penn goes to Oslo for a speaking engagement and out in the country, she cares little about the Big War that everyone's talking about.  However, soon the world's turmoil comes to them.

Musings: How I Live Now is a very different young adult book, both in its style and in the way it approaches the dystopian genre.  The first thing that everyone who reads this book is likely to notice is the somewhat stream-of-consciousness style.  The book is told from Daisy's point of view, and her thoughts run indiscriminately and indistinctly, much as you might expect from a teenage girl disengaged from the world and herself.  Her run-on sentences and frequent capitalization provide just the right attitude for Daisy, a girl who starves herself and has tortured many a psychologist to feel strength in the face of a father who just doesn't seem to care.  Although in true teenage style Daisy rarely acknowledges the pain she's feeling, the reader can see it's there.  Rosoff's choice in creating this style and tone for the novel is perfect and so different from traditional YA narratives.

War looms over the book from the beginning and eventually is the focus of the novel.  But I liked that, in keeping true to the characters, Daisy first cares little about the war.  She narrates, "I didn't spend much time thinking about the war because I was bored with everyone jabbering on for about the last five years about Would There Be One or Wouldn't There and I happen to know there wasn't anything we could do about it anyway so why even bring the subject up" (15).

In terms of the dystopian genre, How I Live Now is much more along the lines of The Road than most YA dystopians.  There's not a standard plot arc, and the focus is more on Daisy's internal monologue as she survives and matures, even in the worst of situations.  I can see how this might put off some readers, but though I found the storyline and ending a bit unusual, it works with the novel as a whole.

There's an unusual romance that might bother some readers, but I found it true.  The characters aren't completely believable--they're all quirky and odd in unusual ways--but they come together effectively in the novel.

For the style alone, I'd highly recommend How I Live Now for its willingness to go outside standard YA form.


  1. How I Live Now is the next book I'm reading for my what I missed reading challenge! Really looking forward to it

  2. Hope you enjoy it. I don't think the plot is all that different, but the style and characterization really grabbed me!

  3. I got about one third of the way this one and put it down. I liked the unorthodox structure, and the characters were very interesting...I just had a hard time with a lot of the vague backstory and context. It didn't hold my attention, I guess. May have to try again, though - that has definitely happened before as a result of situation.

    Great review!

  4. This is definitely a book where you just have to "accept" that this is a world where "Things Are Bad" (to borrow Rosoff's structure) without any explanation. Typically world building is super important to me in dystopian-type novels, but for some reason it didn't bother me much in How I Live Now. Maybe if I'd expected a strong dystopia going in I would have been more disappointed, but by the time I got around to picking up the book at the library I'd completely forgotten what it was about, so I went in with no specific expectations.