Book Review: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Daisy’s stepmother has convinced her father to send her off to England to live with her aunt and cousins, and Daisy really doesn’t mind. She hates her life in NYC anyway, and life in the countryside seems like a welcome change. Her cousins are quirky and fun, and Aunt Penn is sweet and practices a relaxed parenting style. When Aunt Penn goes away for a work trip, terrorist acts occur in London effectively leaving the kids on their own. On their own to explore feelings and actions they might not otherwise have felt free to.
The big rumblings about this YA book is that there is incest in it. In the grand scheme of shocking incest though, this incest is just….not that shocking. It’s between two cousins who’ve never met until they’re teenagers. *shrug* Plus, the incestuous relationship is really not the main focus of the story at all. It holds center stage for maybe two chapters. Two very chaste chapters. Oh sure, an astute reader knows what’s going on, but there are no lengthy sexual passages. The most we get to witness is a kiss. So, this book is really just really not about incest, ok? If that was keeping you from reading it, don’t let it. If that’s why you wanted to read it, go read Flowers in the Attic instead.
So what is the story about? Quite simply, it’s about the impact living in an age of world-wide terrorism has on young people. On their perceptions, decisions, morals, and more. As someone who was only a sophomore in highschool when 9/11 happened, I feel safe in saying that Rosoff depicts the experience of a young person growing up in this world very well. The mixture of relaxing and having fun while the adults panic around you with nights of fear are perfectly woven.
Daisy’s voice is wonderful to listen to. She’s an appealing, funny narrator with an acute wit. She is truly someone to like and root for. Similarly, her female cousin, Piper, who she becomes a pseudo-parent to, is extraordinarily interesting and appealing. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to name a character who isn’t well-rounded.
Unfortunately, all of these positives about the book come to a crashing halt at the end. All I can tell you without spoiling the ending is that Rosoff did not take her themes as far as I was hoping she would take them. In my opinion, she copped out, and I was sorely disappointed. The ending reads almost like the beginning of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, and I was just left feeling as if Daisy and her cousins had let me down. What could have been an extraordinary book became just average.
Thus, if you are looking for a YA take on the impact life with terrorism has had on the younger generation, but aren’t expecting anything mind-blowing, you’ll enjoy this book. If what you’re after is shocking YA, however, look elsewhere.
3.5 out of 5 stars