How I Live Now
by Meg Rosoff
Published August 24th 2004 by Wendy Lamb Books
This book is Elizabeth’s journal and the journey in it is hers. It is personal, it is poignant and it is young and naive. It is also jumbled and messy, and stream-of-consciousness in it’s written form. She goes by Daisy because she feels plain and simple like the flower, but her heart, on the verge of womanhood, bursts with everything complex and mysterious as the most exotic flower in a garden of thorns and brambles. Her story begins with an ending as she deserts – or is rather banished – from her father’s home as her stepmother is preparing for the birth of a baby. Daisy is a difficult reminder that there was once another wife and mother, who is dead now. They are happy to send her to live with her cousins in England for the summer and Daisy is more than happy to run away. The opportunity to experience a different life with different people, even total strangers you are related to, appeals to Daisy in an exotic and electrifying way. Particularly when she meets her cousin Edmond for the first time. Cigarette in his mouth, floppy hair and that half grin. Not much older than her fifteen years, but old enough.
Daisy’s strange journey begins pretty strangely indeed. Her aunt and her four young cousins live in England on a sprawling farm with animals and a rhythm of life that is completely foreign to Daisy. While her Aunt Penn is away in Norway fighting for peace, England is growing closer and closer to a third world war. The children are left for the most part to fend for themselves in ways that are much more essential than food and clothing. Daisy does not miss New York, but England is a very odd place, living day after day without any adult supervision is very odd and her cousins’ ability to read her thoughts seems the most odd thing of all. And then there is Edmond. He maybe her cousin, but there is something irresistible and lost-puppyish about him that draws Daisy in. She knows it is wrong to imagine kissing her cousin the way she wants to, but she does it just the same.
As the world around the falls apart, Daisy and her cousins struggle to maintain normalcy. But as doctors collect prescriptions to support the war efforts, the soldiers move in and help themselves to the livestock, food and the house itself, the children slowly realize that the world has been falling apart while they were not looking. Eventually, the children are separated and sent off to containment camps in outlying villages. Daisy and her youngest cousin, Piper, escape and make their way through the forest and along the river back to the farm. Edmund and his twin Isaac escape Gateshead where they are being held, but they struggle to survive in the wilderness, deciding to split up – Isaac going ahead to the farm, Edmund going back to try to help save the others in the village. Isaac makes it but Edmund is the victim of a terrible survivor’s circumstance, witnessing the horrific war crimes against his fellow villagers and returns to the farm after a long time, emaciated and broken.
Six years later, Daisy reflects on her time there and fantasizes about how time might be standing still there in England, waiting for her. Evacuated to New York and fully recovered, she is given a chance to go back and find Edmund, only now she is twenty-one. The world is a very different place to her and her role in it is much different than she imagined it could be when she was blind to everything but love.
Information about the Author
Meg Rosoff was born in 1958 in a suburb of Boston, MA and grew up in a Jewish household, her father was a surgeon who taught medicine at Harvard University while her mother worked as a psychiatric social worker. Rosoff described herself as an early bookworm and painfully awkward teenager, always on the wrong side of fashion and society among her peers. She studied English and fine arts at Harvard for a time, lived in London and studied there for a while, came to New York and drifted from publishing to advertising jobs and finally ended up working as a copywriter and moving permanently back to London.
Finally deciding that young adult fiction and its total lack of “rules” intrigued her enough to try to write, Meg Rosoff assembled her childhood thoughts on young female characters and combined them with stories she gathered from locals in London who recounted terrifying and fascinating stories of bombings and battles in WWII.
Awards: Orange Prize Nominee for New Writers (2005), Printz Award (2005), Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis Nominee for Jugendbuch (2006), Branford Boase Award (2005), Boston Author’s Club Young Reader Award (2005) Bronzener Lufti (2006)
Content Area: Family Life; Courage, Bravery, Heroism; Romantic Relationships; Survival
The first kiss between Daisy and her cousin Edmond takes place on pp. 44-45. There is enough tension and a very brief, straight forward description that makes two important things clear in the story: their affections go much farther than proper “cousinly love” ever should and they are both very willing to ignore this one small but tragic fact.
Text Measures/Reading Level:
Quantitative: Lexile Level: Lexile Measure®:1620L
ATOS Book Level: 6.7
Interest Level: Upper Grades (UG 9-12)
Reading Level: Grade level Equivalent: 8.5
Always check the American Library Association website for strategies and tips in handling challenges to library materials at http://www.ala.org/bbooks/challengedmaterials/support/strategies
Picture Book for Children: Meet the Boars by Meg Rosoff; Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), Hardcover, 9780805074888 (2005)
Why This Book?