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How I Live Now
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?