How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

A quick rundown… Set in a future where England is occupied by an unnamed army, Daisy needs to bond with her cousins to make it through.

Strengths: It’s different.

Weaknesses: Hints at the conflict and Daisy’s past rather than explains. Who is this book for – teens or adults?

Why I read it: Popular Penguin series

Pages: 210

Published: 2009 (first published 2004)

Publisher: Penguin

Setting: England, America

Rating: 5 out of 10

 

I should probably preface this review by saying that creepy wars and children left to their own devices in a battle it out way are not my kind of thing. This sort of stuff is not my cup of tea. So why did I read this one? Well, for two reasons: the first being that I can’t resist how cute and cheap the Popular Penguins series is and the other was that the blurb on the back didn’t mention weird creepy wars on the back at all.

Daisy is shipped off to England by her father and stepmother after being a bit of a naughty girl (the exact details we never find out). She then arrives at Heathrow to be met by not her aunt, but her cousins (who are too young to be smoking and driving, but nobody seems to care). This was my first hint that this wasn’t going to be a nice book about children in the English countryside. Soon after, England is held under siege by an unnamed enemy and Daisy and her cousins must fend for themselves as her aunt is detained in Europe. Cue people dying, separation, hunts for food and a slightly incestuous romance and repeat several times before everything is quickly tied up and life returns to a new kind of normal.

This book is aimed more at the young adult market, who might enjoy the idea of the adults disappearing and being left to fend (rather well) for themselves. I’m not sure how you would explain sex with your cousin though. (Perhaps Daisy is adopted? That would be tidy). This book had a slightly creepy feel to it, as in ‘this could possibly happen’ and the general lack of emotion the teenagers and children feel at the death and destruction around them. The war that is being fought is never explained in anything more than abstract terms, so you’re not aware whether the enemy is a country or organised group. Maybe this is to demonstrate just how little the children are thinking about it.

I found the whole ‘get food, run away, survive, meet cousins in random parts of the country by complete chance’ thing quite boring and I did skim over several chapters. I felt that there wasn’t enough detail to the book, not just in relation to the war but the relationships between the characters. Daisy comes across as selfish and shallow and doesn’t really seem to learn a lot from her ordeal. I may just be too old to get it, but I think there are better books out there in this genre (for example, Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden) for the target audience.

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2 thoughts on “How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

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  1. My daughter read this at just the right age, and so we both loved it. One of the things I love is that a lot is implied, rather than told. Daisy was shipped off because she was anorexic and they thought getting her away from the father and step-mother might help her. Instead, ironically, she ends up starving because there is no food, not as a means of control–and the section where she talks about that is one of the highlights. At least we thought so.

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