How I Live Now starts out in modern-day New York City, with fifteen-year-old Daisy being told by her father that she must go live with her cousins in England, as she is having trouble getting along with her stepmother. Daisy arrives at the airport in London, and is picked up by her cousin Edmund, then taken back to the farmhouse in the country where she is greeted by her Aunt Penn and Edmund’s three siblings. The six of them enjoy life in the country for several months, and Daisy is incredibly happy there – she even falls in love with Edmund and the two of them begin a secret, passionate relationship. But when war breaks out, and the enemy occupies England, the family is split up. Aunt Penn is away in another country, the three boys go to an unnamed place to work, and Daisy and her youngest cousin Piper travel to another farm to help out with the soldiers there.
This is an extremely beautifully written, thought-provoking novel that I have to admit I have mixed feelings about. Generally speaking, I really liked it, but there was one thing that bothered me a LOT: the relationship between Daisy and Edmund. Perhaps it made me so uncomfortable because Rosoff wrote it so well that it felt very real to me, but at the risk of sounding immature, it grossed me out. So that definitely tarnished the book for me, I just couldn’t “get” that aspect of the novel. I also didn’t understand why Daisy’s father would send her halfway across the world just because his wife didn’t like her. That aspect of the novel made me so sad.
That being said, there are many other aspects of the book I did like. Daisy’s voice was completely authentic and very real for a teenager faced with living through a world war. I listened to this book on audio, and the narrator did a great job channeling that teen voice in her speech patterns and tone of voice. Daisy started out so immature, so young-sounding, and as the book progressed, as she had to deal with harder and harder times, she grew up quite a bit, and Rosoff really reflected that through Daisy’s first person narration.
The war was a huge part of the book, and it was written in a believable, completely terrifying way. I definitely thought about what my life would be like if World War III broke out on American soil, what would possibly happen, where I would go if we were to be occupied, etc. There were some scary thoughts running through my mind as I read about Daisy and Piper surviving horrific conditions.
This novel has been touted as a young adult/adult fiction crossover, and I would agree with that assessment. How I Live Now is a stunning read for all ages. While I didn’t love every single thing about the book, overall it made me think and will stay with me for a long time. And the writing is beautiful – I will definitely read more from Meg Rosoff in the near future.