How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff really is an extraordinary book. In this novel, fifteen-year-old Elizabeth (always called Daisy) is sent away from her father and evil stepmother in New York City to live way out in the
English countryside with relatives she doesn't know. She's not too upset by this, though; she doesn't want to be stuck with Davina the Diabolical, who quite possibly attempted to poison Daisy. That's why Daisy stopped eating. Yes, she is anorexic, but that's not the central issue of the story, which is nice for a change. Most
characters with anorexia make their illness the focus of an entire novel, which can get a little old. In Daisy's case, readers are allowed to see that there is much more to her than that.
When her Aunt Penn leaves for Oslo right before war breaks out, Daisy and her four (telepathic) cousins (nine-year-old Piper, fourteen-year-old twins Edmond and Isaac, and sixteen-year-old Osbert) are left on their own. They don't mind; they're doing fine. England has been invaded by an unknown attacker, but, at first, this doesn't affect them at the farm.
- it can't touch the five of them (plus a goat and two dogs). At first, anyway. They're all away in their own little world, swimming and fishing and just enjoying their life,
until the war - a very scary, real thing in this time when terrorism is
such a real threat - comes to them.
Soldiers come to live at the farm, eventually sending the five cousins to different places all over the English countryside, no more than two of them together. Being separated from fourteen-year-old Edmond is especially devastating for Daisy; they've fallen in love. She didn't exactly plan on falling in love with an underage blood relative when she came to England, but that's what happened. Again, this is an issue that Meg Rosoff deals with surprisingly well. Daisy isn't sure she's supposed to feel this way about a cousin (actually, she knows she isn't), but she does. And again, this isn't the central issue of the story.
The war isn't exactly the focus of the story, either. The war is what lets everything happen the way it does.
So many elements of this story in most novels would be the main focus, but Meg Rosoff ties everything together beautifully. Daisy is anorexic. Daisy was forced by her stepmother to leave her life in New York and move to England. Daisy and Edmond are in love. Daisy's cousins are telepathic. There's a war going on. Entire books could be written about each issue, but the way Meg Rosoff does it in How I Live Now is amazing.
The story is told in Daisy's unique, fresh, and witty
voice, and would not be the same if it were told from any other perspective. Her voice makes this story what it is: brilliant. This is a coming-of-age story like no other, dealing with love, loss, and growing up in a way that is completely unique and completely wonderful. The story is sad but, unlike books that are just depressing, there's a bit of hope in it, no matter how much it will make readers cry.
There is no single word that can describe Meg Rosoff's novel. Breathtaking, perhaps, but it's so much more than even that. Touching. Emotional. Complex. Brilliant. Amazing. There are no faults to this story, or the way it is told. How I Live Now will certainly be a favorite with teens and adults alike, not only for now but for a long time to come.