Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Printz Review: How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff

How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff

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. 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 novel that captures the essence of the age of terrorism: how we live now.

Review: A few years ago, I went through a phase where I was only reading dystopias. I burned myself out quickly because a lot of the books felt like clones. It seemed like I was just reading the same book over and over.

I don’t know how I missed How I Live Now during my dystopia phase. It would have broken up the clone monotony. This book is a dystopia with a teenage girl as a main character, but it’s a little different from what I’m used to.

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is living with her cousins in England when a war breaks out, and the nearby village is invaded. The cousins are split up and sent to live in different foster homes until Daisy’s aunt can get back to England. When Daisy begins to suspect that her aunt is never coming home, she becomes desperate to reunite with her cousins.

Daisy isn’t your typical YA dystopian heroine. She has no interest in politics. It isn’t her job to overthrow the government and save the world. She doesn’t even know what the war is about or who’s fighting. Daisy and her cousins are just kids who are trying to survive something that they don’t understand. This dystopia is creepy because it feels so plausible.

To contrast the realistic dystopian elements, the book has some strange fantasy elements. Daisy and her cousins have a psychic connection with each other and the landscape. I like that the psychic connection is kept mysterious. Daisy and her cousins just accept that they can read each other’s minds. This is how their lives work. They don’t question it. The connection is interesting and makes the story more than a typical dystopian/survival/war book.

There are a few things that I didn’t like about the book, but the story is compelling enough that I could easily look past them. The writing style was distracting at first. There are a lot of long sentences and SHOUTY CAPS. I did get used to it eventually because it’s realistic and true to Daisy’s personality.

I guess I also have to talk about the insta-cousin-love. Daisy does fall in romantic love with her cousin shortly after meeting him. My first thought was, “Are YA authors so desperate to include a romance in their books that they have to resort to insta-cousin-love?” The romance is my biggest problem with the book. Even if the characters weren’t cousins, it would have felt underdeveloped and unnecessary. I’m not sure why this book needed a romance. Luckily, it isn’t the main focus of the story.

The best thing about How I Live Now is its themes. Unlike a lot of dystopias, it doesn’t deal with large-scale problems. It’s about reevaluating your life and deciding what’s important. It’s a very personal story, and that’s what I love most about it.



  1. Definitely sounds interesting. I'll look around for it.

  2. Interesting! I'm not sure about the "shouty caps" and insta-cousin-love, but I really like the lack of government-overthrowing and saving-the-world. Hmmm... looking it up on Goodreads now...

    1. The cousin love does seem unnecessary, but overall it’s a good book.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. The cousin love is hard to not be creeped out by. Couldn't she have made them second cousins? I did like that the story played out like a dystopian future would pan out for most of us; trying to survive instead of actually saving the day. Karen Hesse's "Safekeeping" and Susan Beth Pfeffer's "Life As We Knew It" have a similar vibe. In some ways it makes the books less urgent--the fate of the world is not depending on our lovely yet strong heroine's decisions--but it also makes it more engaging, because you can actually imagine yourself facing those situations.