Book Summary (goodreads):
“Every war has turning points and every person too.”
Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.
As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.
A riveting and astonishing story.
Cover: I love this one. It isn’t the edition I read from, but I love this one too much not to use it.
Before Reading: I’d been looking forward to reading this one for a long, long time, mostly because all the writer/book blogger peeps I love only had good things to say about it.
This is a powerful little book. It engaged my attention completely from start to finish. I’d look up at points and be startled to find myself in my own world instead of the beautiful, crumbling house those rare magical cousins lived in. And I haven’t lost myself like that in a book for a long time.
So, How I Live Now has incest in it. A lot of reviews I’ve read find this creepy and weird, which I understand, but for myself as a reader… I shrugged. I come from a country where first-cousin marriages aren’t taboo; in fact, they’re accepted and more common than even I knew. And JSYK, this country isn’t very overly religious or [insert stereotype of backward country here]. So I’m nobody to turn my nose up at this stuff.
So that aspect of the book didn’t put me off, and I’m glad, because How I Live Now is a gem. The writing style is breathless and real and makes everything so much more vivid than even a slightly more constrained voice would have done. This is a great example of experimental writing that works.
There’s a fictional third world war going on, which right now is actually kind of likely, so it was scary and relevant at the same time. I appreciated not knowing if it was the present (it certainly felt like it) or in the near future. I like it when authors leave things to readers’ interpretations.
And the characters. Oh, the characters. The life of the story. They were as vivid and as real as if I were watching them in front of me, and what with their uncanny abilities- a great way to incorporate magical realism into this work- I couldn’t help but feel for every single one of them.
Osbert, with his snobby ways; Isaac, who I loved the most because he was just so different; Edmond, the one who knows what you’re thinking before you say it, and of course, Piper, with her maturity and wisdom: I loved them all. And the characters are amazing examples of people in magical realism- a genre I hadn’t encountered before.
The one problem I had with the book: our protagonist Daisy is fifteen, but she refers to herself as a kid and sometimes says things that teenagers wouldn’t. I’d know; I only recently turned sixteen.
But then again, the book was written in 2004, so maybe teenagers thought differently then. Maybe the market wasn’t as heavily saturated with young adult books. Whatever it was, I’m not going to go on about it, because the overall feel of the book wasn’t too affected by my nitpicking. This is the honest, real YA book I’ve always been looking for.
What I’m going to tell you is this: don’t shy away from How I Live Now because of the controversial topics. Don’t. You’ll miss out on an amazing read otherwise.
Parting Thoughts: Read it. I can almost guarantee that if your tastes are anything like mine, you’ll love this book for its brutal honesty and braveness.