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How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

June 5, 2012

How I Live Now starts out as a fairly straight forward coming-of-age YA novel. Daisy, the narrator, is an american teenager sent to live in England with her aunt and cousins. She quickly discovers a sense of belonging in her new home that she did not feel living with her father and stepmother. She begins to feel protective towards Piper, her younger cousin, and falls in love with her cousin Edmond. Her Aunt Penn leaves for a fwe weeks to work, and Daisy and her cousins (Piper, Joe, and Edmond) are left alone to enjoy their idyllic life.

Rosoff takes this fairly simple story, and upends her character’s lives. There is some kind of terrorist attack – the beginning of a state of ward – and the phones stop working. Daisy’s aunt can’t get a hold of them and can’t get home. Daisy and her cousins are scared, but able to take care of each other. Their biggest worry is that they will be forced out of their home when it is discovered that they are living there without an adult; when the army takes over the home for operations, this is exactly what happens, and they are split up and sent to different families without having any say in the decision. The rest of the book relates Daisy’s life with Piper in a strange family, and their attempts to get back home and find their cousins.

How I Live Now is thoroughly informed by Daisy’s narration. She is, at turns, wise, pitiable, sad, and petulant. The book also makes it clear how little autonomy she has over her own life – between being sent to England, then taken away from the new home she loves, she has little control over her circumstances.

The novel could be described in ways that sound sensationalist – terrorism! eating disorders! teenage cousins fucking! – but it is written in such a matter of fact way that it feels intimate and real. It is a heartfelt and simple story of both growing up, and how our culture lives now.

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