Author: Meg Rosoff
This Edition: Paperback, published 2013 by Penguin
First Published: 2004
Links: Goodreads | Buy the book | Buy the DVD
*I received a free copy of this book from Spinebreakers in exchange for an honest review*
So, How I Live Now is set in the future, in a fictional World War THREE, which I thought I would just clarify because I read the entire book believing it was about World War TWO and being extremely confuzzled when it was going on about the Enemy Occupation, because: ‘WHOAH, the enemy in WWII was the Germans, right?…and I’m pretty sure the Germans never got into England, right?… Suffice it to say, I was confuzzled. It is actually a sad testament to my stupidity that I did not realise this book could not possible be set in World War Two throughout reading it, and after reading it, until I watched the film and saw how all the houses and cars were modern, and then I decided to turn to trusty old Google, who kindly informed me that No, this is not set in World War Two, it is set in World War Three. Which is what I said at the beginning of this review which is alarmingly rapidly morphing into a ramble about my lack of historical knowledge. I shall change gears now.
SO. How I Live Now is a pretty short read. You pick it up and it feels light, easy. Only 211 pages, and the writing is quite big. So, as a book, it seems quite small, quite unassuming. Which means you are completely unaware of the fierce punch it packs. Oh yes. This little book takes you completely by surprise; at least, I was taken by surprise. I did not expect that 211 pages of prose (gloriously, compellingly written prose, I have to mention) would sweep me away with such conviction and make me feel as if I had been through a whole lifetime with Daisy, instead of just a few hours.
I don’t know how Meg Rosoff did it – make me feel so completely enveloped in the story, that is – maybe it was something to do with the unique style in which the novel is written: the first person point of view of Daisy, all speech marks omitted, so it feels like you are right inside Daisy’s head, listening to her endless, rambling thoughts. Rosoff manages to keep Daisy sounding so real, so honest, that the relationship between reader and protagonist really feels quite intimate.
A lot of people have problems with Daisy as a character, branding her selfish, stroppy, unlikable etc. Whilst these remarks are true – Daisy can definitely come across as a very negative person – I think her flaws strengthen her as a character. She is a teenager who has problems that many teenagers probably have, and reacts in a way that many (although not necessarily most) might react. This is what makes her such a compelling protagonist, in my opinion: her believability. She just seems so real. She is just a teenage girl, thrown into a dreadful situation, who has to fight for survival.
Yet her struggle is not a heroic one; she is not a heroine. She is just a teenage girl, initially stroppy, selfish, abrasive, struggling and floundering to stay alive, just like any average, person thrown into such dire circumstances might. There is nothing particularly remarkable about Daisy or her story; what makes How I Live Now so readable is its intimately captivating tone and the gritty realness of Daisy’s story.
My Goodreads rating... ★★★★
In One Word...
Now, I realise this is not an adjective, and so perhaps doesn't really make sense, but the reason 'bubble' pops into my head as a word that describes this book is, firstly, because of the idyllic bubble-like world the children inhabit when the war first breaks out...they're left alone at home, without adult supervision, and for now the war doesn't seem to exist; instead, they revel in their freedom. It's a picturesque existence that takes on an almost dreamlike quality through Daisy's voice, yet there's that undercurrent of danger as we know that things can not remain this perfect for long.
“I guess there was a war going on somewhere in the world that night but it wasn't one that could touch us.”
Mostly, though, it's because of Daisy's voice. Whilst reading How I Live Now, I felt like I was living in a bubble inside her head. Her narrative was so honest and personal, and I think what made it unique was the fact that it wasn't as if Daisy was trying to tell a story to someone else, but instead like she was simply reliving the story in her mind. Thus, things like her eating disorder were barely dwelt on, and only very subtly hinted at. It didn't matter if the reader got it or not - Daisy didn't feel the need to dwell on it, therefore she didn't. The result was a story that felt genuine and unpretentious.
Quotes I Liked...
“Things Happen and once they start happening you pretty much just have to hold on for dear life and see where they drop you when they stop.”
“I noticed that once you realize someone's watching you it's pretty hard not to find yourself watching them back.”