Friday, October 1, 2010
How I Live Now
I always mean to read more YA titles to recommend them to some of my students, so recently I finished How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. I really didn't know what to expect, and there wasn't too much description on the back, and I felt like there were so many unexpected twists and turns. But, I can see that this book would cause a lot to talk about.
Daisy is a teenage girl living in Manhanttan. Her mother died when she was young, and her father remarries to the stereotypical evil stepmother. They don't get along to the point where Daisy is sent to live with her mother's sister Pen in England. Daisy gets to start a new life over there. She struggles a little bit to feel at home, but she soon feels that life is so much more exciting in this lovely countryside rather than the busy city.
Daisy soon falls for her cousin Edmond, a fourteen-year-old smoker. They hide their relationship from the rest of the family, although it must be clear to most of them. Daisy is also hiding her anorexia, which becomes even more complicated as the novel progresses.
And here's the weird twist. A fictional war breaks out in Europe, and life on the farm seems to be normal. They are self-sufficient, so they don't really interact with the outside world. First, a doctor comes to the house looking for medications to help the wounded. He is suspicious that he does not find any adults at home. There is no uncle, and aunt Pen has left. She soon becomes stranded in Oslo and is not heard from again for a long while.
Soon enough, soldiers come to the house and split up the family. Isaac and Edmond (the boys) are sent one way, and Piper and Daisy are sent another way (the girls). Daisy longs for Edmond, but soon takes to saving Daisy as she is younger. There is little food where they are taken, which really makes Daisy look at her anorexia as she grows thinner and thinner and weaker and weaker. Piper and Daisy eventually escape to go back home and must walk home a long distance. Along the way, they encounter a field of dead bodies, a place where Edmond was supposed to be, and Daisy checks every body to make sure that one isn't Edmond. She does not find him, but they seem to be completely scarred from their experience.
Once they finally return home, Daisy intercepts a call from her father who sends her back home. She stays in a New York City hospital until she is nursed back to health. A while later, Daisy returns to England to discover that Aunt Pen was killed in Oslo and Edmond has been found. However, Edmond is so scarred from what he saw in the war that he's only a shell of himself. His arms are physically scarred from self-inflicted wounds. While everyone projected the hurt and harm and anger onto something else, Edmond turned it onto himself. The book concludes with Daisy nursing Edmond back to sanity as she believes she will stay on the farm because that is where she feels the most at home.
Issues to talk about with this book:
-The effects of war
-Inflicting self harm
The reading level was easy for a young adult. The novel centers around a fictional war, so you could spend some time speculating why this could have happened. Readers didn't have a lot of information about the war, which is probably quite realistic. We know a lot about wars because we study them after the fact. However, how much do civilians know during the war, especially when they are cut off from contact? I think that's an interesting idea to ponder.
Blood cousins dating? I guess that one's up for you to speculate about...
Simple text, but a few things to talk about with it.
So what do you think about How I Live Now?