How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff  has been on my tbr shelf for a few months. Coincidentally, a friend gave a copy of the book to my 12 year old daughter, Mallory, for Christmas. We decided it would be cool to read the book at the same time and then share our thoughts about the novel here. This is actually something I’d like to do on a semi-regular basis because there are a lot of YA novels I’d like to read and Mallory is a voracious reader. In any case, we’ll start with this book and see how we make out.

I’ll start by letting Mallory tell you a little bit about herself:

Hi, everyone! I’m a grade seven student in french immersion. Besides reading, I enjoy drawing, dancing, (I study ballet and modern dance ten hours a week), and hanging out with my friends. I do love to read. Some of my favourite books are: Airborn, Skybreaker, A Little Princess, The Twilight Saga, Little Women, and The Little House on the Prairie books.

Thanks, Mal. So, I’m going to let Mallory tell everyone what How I Live Now is about.

Mallory:  Basically,  How I Live Now is about a teenage girl named Daisy who goes to England to live with her cousins after her father remarries. Once she’s there, two life-changing things happen: she falls in love with her cousin, Edmond, and war breaks out.

Christie: That’s it in a nutshell, Mallory. But this is a pretty remarkable book; it’s certainly not like anything that I’ve ever read before. What did you like about it?

Mallory: You know how when you read you can hear the author’s voice? Well, this book had the strongest voice of any I’ve ever read. Meg Rosoff created an incredible character, and when Daisy spoke she could make you believe anything.

Christie: I think Mal’s touched on the main reason this book is so wonderful. Daisy is a breathless, intelligent, self-deprecating, emotional fifteen-year-old girl whose personal world has been turned upside down….and then she has a catastrophic war to contend with.

When she arrives at the airport and meets her cousin, Edmond, she tells the reader “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.” (3)

The whole story spins out of Daisy’s amazing brain and everything that happens to her is skewed by her needy intelligence.

Mallory: Her relationship with Edmond was really interesting to me. At first, I thought it was sort of freaky because I couldn’t imagine falling in love with my cousins. But after the war starts, and things get more complicated, I began to believe, like Daisy did, that they were meant to be together- related or not.

Christie: The war certainly made the story interesting. What did you think of the way we didn’t really know too much about who was fighting whom?

Mallory: When I was reading any bits where the war is described- my mind was never thinking of who was fighting or what they were fighting for. Mostly the whole time I was on edge with fear for Edmond and Daisy and whether they would make it through.

Christie: I was worried for them too, but I thought it was really interesting to see this war through Daisy’s eyes. Even though she didn’t really understand the hows and whys, she was able to articulate how people were affected by the fighting and the deaths she witnessed were horrific.

Mallory: I agree. Daisy seemed to be in the know and completely out of it at the exact same time- but it didn’t seem to matter. I was just wondering, what were your thoughts on Isaac and Osbert, who didn’t seem to play a big role in this story. And about Piper, who did.

Christie: We should tell people that Isaac is Edmond’s twin, Osbert is his sixteen-year-old brother and Piper, his nine year old sister. Their mother, Daisy’s Aunt Penn, goes off to Oslo very early in the book, leaving the children on their own. I think that’s one of the interesting aspects of this book – how these kids have to fend for themselves when the war is relatively distant and how all that changes when it suddenly shows up in their back yard. You’re right, though, Isaac and Osbert don’t really have a large part to play although Isaac does have an impact at the novel’s conclusion. Piper, on the other hand, is extremely important and I think gives Daisy a reason to go on. She’s a great character.

Who should read this book, Mal?

Mallory: Well, this book is suggested for 12 and up- but it’s a pretty intense read. It might not appeal to everybody, but if you’re a strong reader, and aren’t easily upset or offended, I recommend this book. Before I read How I Live Now, The Twilight Saga were my favourite books. I stayed faithful to them for a long time, and was almost positive that I’d never find a book (or series) that was better. How I Live Now was a pleasant surprise. It ended up overtaking Twilight by a longshot- and it’s now the reigning champ.

Christie: That warms my heart, Mal because, as you know, not a fan of the sparkly vampires! Now we have to decide what we’re going to read next. Stay tuned!