How I Live Now

 
Powerful, violent tale about kids caught in a modern war.

What parents need to know

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

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
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Edmond smokes, and it is portrayed as cool.

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.

 

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?

QUALITY
 

This book was awarded the Printz honor and earned numerous starred reviews. It is 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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Meg Rosoff
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House
Publication date:January 2, 2005
Number of pages:194

This review of How I Live Now was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 11 and 13 year old Written bystarbox June 29, 2009
age 15+
 

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 as incestuous in the main review, it is, in fact, legal in many states (including Georgia) and marriage between first cousins is common throughout history. The sexual affair is not dealt with in a tawdry way, and I did not feel that it was graphic or glamorized. The ramifications of the affair are dealt with, and the two characters are irrevocably bonded - with a fidelity that transcends war, distance, time, and trauma. The novel does contain some graphic descriptions a fictional future war that are all the more horrifying because the reader feels that the events in the novel could potentially happen. The fact that the violence is realistic and plausible could give more sensitive readers feelings of fear or anxiety and parents/educators should be sensitive to the potential. The book handles many difficult issues in a way that I felt gave a very positive message. The main character, Daisy, responds with courage and strength in the face of horrific circumstances after a series of terrorist attacks leave the country in chaos. In the absence of adults, she protects her young cousin and survives by living off the countryside and learning map/navigational skills. She is anorexic at the start of the novel, but realizes the selfishness of intentionally starving after living through a genuine crisis. Daisy and her cousin Edmund have an intense emotional and sexual affair in the face of what could be the end of the world. As mentioned previously, they are faithful to one another through the most horrible events, distance, and trauma - Daisy stays with Edmund as an adult even after he is horribly scarred by the war. The lack of consequences (pregnancy) is explained by Daisy's ammenorrea. While some may feel that any sexual behavior by teens is inappropriate, I felt that this novel dealt with sexuality in a way that was fair and not-glamorized. There is one scene where the girls accidently eat bad mushrooms while foraging for food to survive and hallucinate. The depiction of the night is horrific and it is a clearly negative view of a drug experience. Positive messages in the novel surround themes of fidelity, self-sacrifice, survival, and self-reliance. There is a strong message of self-sustainable life choices at the end. Proponents of am ecological, back-to-the earth, sustainable farming/living vision will find much to admire. I would not hesitate to recommend this novel to high school students and would not have any qualms about my children reading it in 9th-12th grade.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Great role models
Teen, 16 years old Written byilovealexrider April 9, 2008
age 0+
 

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) with a voice that betters even that of Cassandra in "I Capture The Castle". There is something very laid back about the novel and evokes the sense of just one lazy summer afternoon- even thought it deals with strong issues. Slightly incestuous but seeing as it is legal to marry one's cousin it is not incredibly shocking. Issues that in many other teen books are analysed and wrote about to death are mentioned with just a few sentences, such as Daisy's anorexia and underage sex. Perhaps this adds to the magical value and the way that the children seem detached from the rest of the world. As does the fact that the reader has no idea what time the story is set or why there is a war. But the way that the story is written means that you don't really feel the need to know details like this which would be important in any other novel. It is astonishingly awe-inspiring and beautifully written.
Teen, 14 years old Written byhorseandpony August 14, 2011
age 14+
 

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 book doesn't have any speech marks, the main character just narrates it, which just annoys me more. Don't buy this book, borrow it from a library.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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