Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Review: How I Live Now

Once again, I think the audio version helped me to like Meg Rosoff's young adult book, How I Live Now, more than if I had read it myself.  The narrator did an excellent job of speaking the story to life.  I feel that the author truly nailed voice in this story and did a great job of carrying the reader along (I definitely wanted to know how the story ends).

Fifteen year old Daisy is in a difficult spot.  Her mother died during childbirth (a fact she cannot help but feel somewhat responsible for), her father remarried to a woman she doesn't like, and they are expecting a child any day now.  So the "wicked stepmother" strongly suggests that the best solution might be to pack Daisy off to live with her aunt (her sister's mother) in England for a while.  Daisy, with a bit of an eating disorder (how else can she seize some control over her out-of-control life?), meets her cousins and aunt and instantly falls in love with the family, but especially with her fourteen year old cousin, Edmund, who shows up to the airport to pick her up, on his own, smoking a cigarette.

But this isn't just a story of young love (and in fact, I think the story would have been better if it left out the incestuous cousin-love element altogether and focused on the better aspects, like the survival episodes).  It is more a story of war (think WW III) tearing apart the lives of these young lovers.  Not long after their relationship blossoms, they are separated and sent off to live with foster families in nearby villages.  Despite being desperate to reconnect, and despite an uncanny ability to telepathically send thoughts and emotions, the two face unspeakable odds. They both must learn a new way to approach life.

While I didn't exactly love the ending (and why did it start again with a new chapter one at the end of the book???), and couldn't embrace the level of intimacy the teens reached (that societal assumption that "everyone is doing it"), I did think the characters were strong and interesting. I enjoyed observing the relationship develop between Daisy and Edmund's sister, Piper.  It must be quite a challenge to convey the essence of day-to-day life during war.  The author is to be commended.  She did a fine job of placing the reader right in the midst of the suffering and uncertainty.  This is a short, quick read, sure to appeal to young adult readers who might like to explore the idea of living in war-time (although, given the sexual elements, it is a book I would want to preview and then discuss if I ever allowed a daughter to read it).

I will add that there is a trailer for the movie, which is set for release in November of this year.  I watched it and didn't really find myself wanting to see the movie.  Daisy looked completely different from what I'd imagined and has a coarseness to her that I don't care for.  Edmund is presented as the oldest (different from the book). The intimate moments seem to be emphasized fully in the movie, whereas the book discreetly touched on them.  Who knows, maybe it would be one of the movies that turns out better than the book.  I'm just not sure I'm going to bite.

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