How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff

I was a bit early at my screening at the BFI so I decided to browse through the second hand books before the entrance. I obviously bought five *sigh*. One of them was Meg Rosoff's debut How I Live Now. I'm a total sucker for cute covers with pink flowers and butterflies so I hardly even read the summary at the back. I only registered the critic by Mark Haddon (who wrote the amazingly beautiful The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time *which you should read* *now*) saying "Magical and utterly faultless". 

What else do you actually need to buy a second hand book? 

Nothing at all, especially because this book is, as said, magical and utterly faultless. Seriously.

Since I hadn't read properly the back cover, I was anticipating this forbidden love story kind of plot. But there is so much more to this story that it should constitute a genre in itself.

      So 15-year-old New Yorker Daisy is the typical anorexic with family issues teenager. In an attempt to get her out of the way *cough* make her change air, she is sent to her deceased mother's sister in England. Little does she know that this trip will alter her life forever. 

      She meets her strangely gifted cousins: they read people's mind, can talk to animals and sense when things are going to happen. She learns to live in a farm where you eat what you grow and grow what you eat. She falls in love with her cousin Edmond, hence the forbidden love story. She gradually starts to belong somewhere somehow.

      But this peaceful situation is threatened by a war. An unknown and unexplicable war against causeless and faceless enemies. With her Aunt gone, the children/teenagers have to rely on themselves and their gifts to survive and find each other.

I can hardly explain how and why I loved this book: 
Was it the surprise of reading a profound analysis of war in a YA romance story? 
Was it the supernatural aspect of some characters that is described as normal and where no other explanation is given?
Was it the relationship between characters?
Was it the peculiar love story?
Was it the tone? The style? 

      All of this, and probably much more. Some Fantasy books over-rationalise the fantastic elements in their story, they give it a mythology, a history, a complete biological analysis, whereas sometimes it's just superfluous. 
      It makes me think of David Almond's incredible book Skellig, where the character of Skellig is present throughout the story, and no explanation of his alienness is ever given. And this is what gives the charm to the story. Same here. Like Daisy, you discover these children's peculiarity and learn to love them for it without trying to understand.
      The war context is the perfect background. This is why the "utterly faultless" critic comes in. This book is a whole, you read it from beginning to end with the same curiosity, passion and interest.
It is a definite must-read.


  1. Great review, Caroline! I have to say, I can't stand this book. I'm a huge YA fan, and a fantasy fan too, but I didn't like this book at all. Legal or not, I didn't like that Daisy was in love with her cousin, and just how underage he was, I didn't like her grammar, I didn't like her. There was nothing about this book I liked, yet it wasn't a book I could just put down as I had to read it for uni. I'm glad you enjoyed it, though! There's nothing like finding a book that completely wows you :) Thanks for the review!

    I discovered your blog on Becky's blog, The Bookette :)

  2. Wow you really hated it! Though I don't talk about it, I have been disturbed by the whole cousin-love story thing. I was wondering if the story would have been the same, if the characters would have had the same pull to find each other, had they been unrelated neighbors. I really don't know...
    But I just loved the war context, that part is brilliant.

  3. Oh and by the way Jo, what themes did you study at Uni on this book?

  4. I didn't actually "study" this book. I had to read it to write a review on it in my Writing for Children class. It wasn't a huge part of the actual lessons, but in the review we had to discuss what the book was about, our opinion, critic's views, compare it to other books in the YA genre, compare it to books written by the same author, and why it is a good book for young adult readers.
    I have to add we didn't all have to review this book, this is just the book I won in a contest in class, and my tutor asked me to review it.

    I suppose for other readers, the war element would be pretty fascinating, and described brilliantly - but it's just not my sort of story. I'm not into war unless it's the high fantasy kind, against magical people/creatures, lol.

  5. Interesting review. I have to say, I absolutely love this book. I've read more by Meg Rosoff but for me, this is her standout work so far. I love the fact that we don't really know what the deal is with the invasion, and I actually did think the love story was really well done.