Joelene Reviews: Meg Rosoff's - "How I Live Now"

rosoff_how_i_live_now_1It’s rare to read a book that touches you so deeply that you immediately want to know everything about the author, and despite Google-searching for hours, the information found does not suffice. For me, that book was How I Live Now. With the upcoming release of the film starring Saoirse Ronan, I thought that it was about time I revisited the novel that had impacted me so deeply.

Daisy is a fifteen year old girl who doesn’t belong. Sent away from her dismissive father and stepmother, she finally finds a place that she might be able to make her own with her maternal aunt and cousins. They’re unlike anyone she has met before or likely will again. Isaac is intuitive; knowing things that shouldn’t be possible for him to know. His twin, Edmond can read minds. The youngest, Piper, has a way with animals that surpasses anything human.

They live a carefree life with their beloved pets in the English country-side. For the first time, during the idle summer days of gardening and lazing by the river, Daisy feels like a part of something. Especially, and increasingly, when she’s around Edmond. But a war is looming ahead of them and every day brings it closer to their door.

There is so much to say about How I Live Now. It is beautiful, terrible, haunting, lyrical. Reading it is physically, desperately painful. Putting it down is impossible.

But that’s a lot of words without a whole lot of information. So, what I really love about this book is that it is literary and poignant and entire classrooms could talk about the nuances of it for months and still have more to say. All this, and it’s written for young adults.

Meg Rosoff has an incredible way of juxtaposing situations to accentuate our understanding of them. The war, when it comes, is brutal, destructive and incomprehensible. On the other side of that, the balance is Daisy’s budding relationship with Edmond. It is everything that the war is not; tender, positive and plausible. There are a lot of intelligent readers who want to know why Daisy and Edmond had to be cousins and it bothers me that they can’t see how much weaker the story would be if that had been changed. As a society we will judge two people for having fallen in love with the wrong kind; but we ignore war. The simple beauty of Daisy and Edmond’s love contrasted to the cruelty of the war makes us re-evaluate those views.

There are multitudes of ways that Rosoff has made me consider my opinions and beliefs, but she doesn’t preach. Her gorgeously evocative writing and phenomenal characters drew me into the world and kept me there. She is one of the rare few unapologetic writers. Daisy, in many ways, is self-interested and caustic. Her interest in the world only emerges when world events begin to affect her. All of her flaws, nuances and imperfections are spread across the page for all to see; no excuses, no apology. It works. Daisy’s loyalty and the way that she grows through the novel round out her flaws until we like her all the more for having them. There is something about imperfect characters written well that makes them unforgettable.

I could go on, but you are so much better off finding more out for yourself. If you’re in the mood for a bittersweet story as wonderful as it is painful, pick this one up before the movie comes out.

  How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff

 Penguin (August 5, 2004)

 ISBN: 9780141319926

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