Title: How I Live Now
Author: Meg Rosoff
Release Date: August 5, 2004
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Cover Designer: Nick Stearn
Age Audience: YA
Genre: War Fiction
Tagline: Every war has turning points, and every person too.
Summary: 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.
Based on the reviews I read before reading this book, I didn’t come to expect much of a story, and checked this book out from the library out of curiosity. But it was actually very good.
The characters were all likable and three-dimensional. Daisy’s cousins seemed like real people to me. I really liked Daisy too. Her voice had a perfect blend of wit, sarcasm and selfishness for a teenage girl who has to move across the ocean and live with unknown cousins to get away from her sort-of-evil stepmother. Daisy did have anorexia, but unlike some reviews state, it wasn’t one of the central focuses of the story.
The part of the story in which Daisy and her cousins live on their farm without adults or rules was a lot shorter than I expected. Daisy and Piper, her youngest cousin, get sent to live with an army wife, and then later they end up living in a barn which was being used as an army barracks. This was my favorite part of the book, because it was where it really became a survival story. Daisy was constantly planning to escape back to the farm. At the risk of sounding spoilery, it gets VERY intriguing.
I think that Daisy and Edmond’s relationship was a little rushed. Even though it’s a while before Daisy starts to think of Edmond in a romantic way, they start having sex only about a week after their first kiss. I also thought it was a little weird was that Daisy’s other cousins were completely fine with her and Edmond’s relationship. I know that there are several countries today that allow courtship and marriage between first cousins, but I don’t think the UK, where this story took place, is one of them. Shouldn’t their relationship have been viewed as at least somewhat unusual to the people who knew about it?
But wait, it gets weirder. I myself did not have any issues with their relationship. There was not one point in the book where I thought that Daisy and Edmond should not be together. Like I said before, there are a lot of countries in which it’s legal, and while the offspring of first cousins is likely to be physically or mentally impaired, there’s not as big of a risk as most people think. I also read a lot of historical fiction, and in the past cousin marriage was the norm. I could go on about this for hours, but I’m moving on.
One thing I’d like to point out is that even though people on Goodreads have shelved this book as sci-fi, it wasn’t very sci-fi-y. You could say the war was like an apocalypse, but it wasn’t, really. Honestly, I don’t know what genre this book is! Because my organized mind would go crazy if I didn’t label it, I settled for “War Fiction”. Even though that’s probably not a real genre.
Overall, this was a sweet, weird and multi-layered little book. It’s not something that I’d recommend to strangers, but if you’re not squeamish about first-cousin relationships, I think you’re going to like it.