Saturday, August 26, 2006

How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff

I have Kelly, of Big A, little a, to thank for having Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now to read.

This book was the winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2004 and the Michael L Printz Book Award in America.

The story begins in modern day London or thereabouts (the time period isn't specified but cell phones and emails are mentioned). The protagonist is a 15 year old New Yorker named Daisy. She’s come to England to live after having major problems with her father and her (pregnant) stepmother. Daisy is picked up at the airport by her 14 year old English cousin, Edmond, who drives a jeep and chain-smokes (both illegal under current English law!). She meets her Aunt Penn and her other cousins: Isaac (Edmond's twin), her older cousin Osbert and her younger cousin Piper. Her Aunt Penn goes away almost immediately to Oslo as part of her work for a peace project, as there is potentially a World War brewing. Daisy’s cousins appear to have a telepathic bond, and Daisy finds that they can tell what she is thinking too. This will have a significant part to play in future events, although I won't tell you why as that would spoil the story.

The cousins live in a blissful idyll, with Daisy and Edmond falling in love, but then their world changes when an unspecified aggressor starts blowing things up in England and America. Daisy finds herself parted from Edmond when soldiers take over Aunt Penn's home (Aunt Penn is unable to come back home because the borders have been closed), and Daisy and Piper are sent to work on a farm in one part of the country, whilst Edmond and Isaac are sent to another farm. Osbert, meanwhile, has joined the military. They are forced to live through the occupation and some quite dreadful things happen to the people around them.

Rosoff’s writing style is both good and frustrating. Her descriptions and ability to portray the emotions of the characters are wonderful. But the total lack of speech marks for dialogue is rather exhausting, and Daisy habit of talking in Headlines With Words Capitalised is also tiring (and eventually somewhat tiresome). Despite that and its claustrophobic air, the book is gripping and difficult to put down. This book is not really suitable for younger teens or sensitive older teens. But put simply, this is an extraordinary book.

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