How I Live Now

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
How I Live Now Book Poster Image
Powerful, violent tale about kids caught in a modern war.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 19 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This book could lead to many spirited discussions, starting with what the book's title means. Parents and teachers may want to look at the publisher's discussion guide (pdf), or look at the questions in our "Families Can Talk About" section.

Positive Messages

Readers will understand that it is Daisy's love for her cousins that makes her fight for her survival during a terrible war -- and it is what continues to sustain her in the war's aftermath, when she -- and the rest of the damaged world -- begin trying to rebuild.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Daisy isn't perfect -- she is anorexic at the beginning of the book and isn't too clued into the goings on of the outside world -- but ultimately she draws on her "stubbornness and ignorance and an insatiable hunger for love" in order to survive and protect the family she has chosen.

Violence

Two bloody killings, and a graphic view of rotting corpses after a massacre, including the bodies of children. Daisy uses a gun to kill a starving pet goat. Edmond cuts himself after the war is over. References to rape.

Sex

An incestuous underage sexual affair, presumably unprotected, between first cousins is portrayed romantically, though not graphically, and without consequences. References to rape, sex, molestation, masturbation, erections, kissing, skinny dipping, and dogs humping.

Language

A few expletives.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Edmond smokes, and it is portrayed as cool.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a book about kids trying to survive during a war, and does feature some vivid violence, including descriptions of the decaying bodies of massacred children and adults. Also, Daisy has a sexual and romantic relationship with her first cousin, and their love is rekindled after the war; this is portrayed without judgment but it's hard to get too hung up on this relationship given the way civilization and morality crumble around them. Indeed it is her love for Edmond and his family that makes Daisy fight for her survival. Also Edmond smokes in the book, which Daisy thinks is cool, and Daisy is anorexic at the beginning of the book, mostly to get back at her father and cruel stepmother.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11 and 13 year old Written bystarbox June 29, 2009

A worthwhile but haunting high school book with difficult themes.

First of all, this book does contain non-explicit descriptions of a sexual relationship between two young (14 and 15) first cousins. Although this is described... Continue reading
Parent of a 14 and 15 year old Written byMarkAMDG May 11, 2010

Who Gives a Book Like This an Award? Ugh!

I think this book is entirely inappropriate for teens. There are no positive authority figures. (The father is described in derisive language and the aunt is di... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byilovealexrider April 9, 2008

an exceptional piece of literature - teen/adult book

This is one of my favourite books, the author creates a magic from the first sentence. It is incredibly romantic (especially because of the theme of telepathy)... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byhorseandpony August 14, 2011

annoying

Personally, I did not like this book at all. There was a lot of violence, and it had some really bad themes. I found the main character incredibly annoying. The... Continue reading

What's the story?

Daisy, angry and anorexic, is sent by her father and pregnant stepmother to England to stay with cousins she has never met on their farm. Almost immediately her aunt has to travel, leaving the kids alone, and then, as war breaks out all over the world, is unable to return. Daisy and her cousin Edmond, meanwhile, have fallen in love. For a while, as war, anarchy, and famine spread throughout the world, the children live a peaceful idyll in the country, unencumbered by adults. But soon enough the war comes even to their remote village, their house is taken over by the military, and they are separated. As conditions deteriorate, and Daisy tries to find Edmond, she draws on her "stubbornness and ignorance and an insatiable hunger for love" in order to survive.

Is it any good?

This book was awarded the Printz honor and earned numerous starred reviews, and it's easy to see why it is so popular with critics and readers. It combines so many powerful elements: The book at times takes on elements of magical realism in Daisy's near psychic connection with Edmond, and the scenes of her idyllic life in the English countryside, even after the war begins, contrast sharply with the vivid realism she is forced to deal with as she faces the horrors of starvation, exhaustion, and murder.

This is a book that teens will quickly devour -- and then spend a long time thinking about. There's much to consider, from what they would do in Daisy's place to the portrayal of modern war to what they think will happen to the survivors in the post-war world. Some readers may find the jump to six years later a bit jarring -- and others will no doubt be troubled by the sexual relationship between Daisy and her cousin -- but most teens will find this a powerful, moving tale about kids caught in a war beyond their control -- and the ways it scars them, and bonds them forever.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about some of the book's more mature material, including the vivid descriptions of the war's devastating violence. Were you surprised by any of this content or did it seem necessary to tell Daisy's story? Is reading about violence different than seeing it in a movie or on TV?

  • This book offers a pretty bleak look at our future world. How does it compare to other dystopian novels, such as The Hunger Games or Little Brother? What can we learn by looking at these possible futures?

Book details

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