Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Summary:  Elizabeth is nervous but thrilled when she escapes living with her father, step-mother and their impending spawn by getting shipped off to live with her aunt and four cousins in England.  For once in her life Elizabeth, renamed Daisy by her cousins, is undeniably happy, discovering the delight and security of family that loves her and falling into a forbidden relationship with her cousin Edmond.  The outbreak of war in England ends up separating Daisy from the people and places she loves so dearly, inspiring a desire to get back to her old life by any means necessary.

Dystopian Issues:  War, Anorexia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Part of a Series:  No
Age of Main Character:  15
Number of Pages:  194
Year of Publication:  2004
Publisher:  Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Inc

Review:  If the five little Peppers from Margaret Sidney's book Five Little Peppers and How They Grew had to deal with a war, I feel like How I Live Now is how things would have turned out for them.
     Rosoff writes characters that I want to know about.  Right from the start, Daisy's (Elizabeth's) voice comes out strong and clear, and I love her spark and honest perception of things.  Her cousins, Piper, Edmond and Issac readily accept Daisy as their own and not only teach her how to live on a farm but how to love and be loved as well.
     When it comes to writing books, authors seem to focus on different things: plot, character development, or telling a good story.  A well-round author does all three.  Not all authors are able to create characters that a reader cares about but Rosoff does so beautifully.
     The trouble I did have came from some of the plot elements.  I understood why Daisy became anorexic but I wish it had been developed more or not included at all.  Yes, it was ironic that Daisy was anorexic in the middle of a war where everyone was starving anyway, but I didn't feel it really added to the plot.
     As for the storyline about Daisy and Edmond falling in love and seeming to have sex like rabbits in the absence of adult supervision, yes, it was weird.  Although I kind of see their relationship as a way of clinging to what they had in the face of the unknown.  Would they have still fallen in love if they had received proper adult supervision and the war had never come?  I don't know.  In any case, Daisy's anorexia was useful in that sense because she was no longer getting her period and was therefore unable to get pregnant.  Could have been a completely different story if she had no eating disorder.
     War is a dystopia, and one that we deal with in real-life around the world.  Here in North America we haven't been as affected by war as we were during World War II, but for people in other countries it is an ongoing reality.  Rosoff is very apt at outlining what happens when the rules suddenly change and the world as you knew is overturned.  For Daisy and her cousin it started with little changes that grew to be life changing as the war continued.
     Rosoff is also good at showing that war has a cost.  Loved ones die.  People are changed by horrible things seen and experienced that will never be forgotten.  And being separated from family creates longing for a simpler time when life wasn't upside-down.  There is also the continuing fear that it could happen again.
     This book is currently being made into a movie and I am looking forward seeing it when it comes out.

Real-Life Dystopias:  Hmm..., an act of terrorism that sparked a war?  How about the bombing of the Twin Towers in the United States and the subsequent "War on Terrorism?"  I guess the difference between that example and How I Live Now is that the terrorists invaded England after the terrorist event and there was no invasion of America.  Although I'm sure some of the people of Afghanistan and Iraq regarded the American troops as terrorists when they bombed and invaded those countries.  Sometimes it's a matter of perspective, and this is only one example of terrorism and war.

Memorable Quotes:  "It's a shame, starting out your first day on the planet as a murderer but there you go, I didn't have much choice at the time.  Still, I could live quite happily without the labels I picked up because of it.  Murderer or Poor Motherless Lamb.
     Which one would you choose, the rock or the hard place?"
     -  How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, pg 19

Author Web Site:  http://www.megrosoff.co.uk/blog/

No comments:

Post a Comment