I first heard of Meg Rosoff through Writer Unboxed, where she is a contributor, and had the privilege of taking one of her classes at the UnConference in Salem this past November. I am now kicking myself that I did not have How I Live Now with me at the time, so I could have had it signed. I don’t read a lot of YA, and so perhaps I can be forgiven for having missed this gem, published back in 2004 and since made into a movie of the same name.
Synopsis of How I Live Now (from the book jacket)
Fifteen-year-old New Yorker Daisy is sent to live in the English countryside with cousins she’s never even met. When England is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy, the cousins find themselves on their own. Power fails, systems fail. As they grow more isolated, the farm becomes a kind of Eden, with no rules. Until the war arrives in their midst.
Daisy’s is a war story, a survival story, a love story—all told in the voice of a subversive and witty teenager. This book crackles with anxiety and with lust. It’s a stunning and unforgettable first novel that captures the essence of the age of terrorism: how we live now.
About Meg Rosoff:
Meg Rosoff is an American writer based in London. How I Live Now, her first novel, won the Guardian Prize, the Printz Award, and the Branford Boase Award. The novel was made into a motion picture, which released in 2013 starring Saoirse Ronan, Subsequent novels include Just in Case, What I Was, The Bride’s Farewell and Picture Me Gone.
It is pretty much impossible to categorize this novel.
It’s part utopian and part dystopian.
It’s a war story that takes place on the fringes of the war, at least until the scene that left me as shell-shocked as poor Daisy and Piper. This was soon followed by something exponentially worse.
The love story should be disturbing or, at the very least, off-putting, yet it somehow isn't. Not in that context. Not in that world.
How I Live Now is only 194 pages yet it felt much meatier because Daisy’s voice forced a slow read with no skimming allowed. It is one of the most original stories I've read in years, and also one of the most timely and unsettling. I wouldn't hand it to my thirteen-year-old, but when she’s fifteen I may well be shoving it at her.
It made me examine how vulnerable MY world is, how easily it could crumble into chaos. How many novels can do that?