Raters of the Lost Art: How I Live Now
By Laura Mooney, Arts Editor
The dystopian novel trend in young adult novels continues to hold strong, with what seems like the weekly release of a new novel involving a female teen in the not so far off future battling for her freedom. But before The Hunger Games, there was a small unassuming novel called How I Live Now that puts other dystopian books to shame, and features a passionate, albeit rather unorthodox love story that is the perfect read just before Valentine’s Day. How I Live Now tells the story of Elizabeth, or as she prefers, “Daisy,” as she is sent from America to live with her cousins (Edmond, Isaac, and Piper) who she has never met, in England at their secluded country farm.
Unfortunately, the entirety of Britain is at war with an unnamed enemy, and Daisy must learn to not only cope with her new surroundings in a war-ravaged country, but also maneuver her way through the trials of being a teenager. Meg Rosoff’s 2004 short novel is read through the eyes of Daisy in a stream of consciousness. Not much is given about anyone’s background, or even the current setting of the story. It is through Daisy that the reader learns of the horrors that Britain is going through, as well as Daisy’s own personal horrors, which the reader discovers is the reason why she was sent away. The entire novel reads so subtly that some sentences must be read a couple times over just to retain the small clues that Daisy leaves the reader about the novel’s environment, such as an atomic bomb being dropped on London.
As mentioned, although How I Live Now is marketed as a dystopian novel, once having read it, it is undeniably a love story. Although the love story is not the typical tale one is accustomed to hearing around Valentine’s Day, it is nonetheless a beautiful tale of young love. Admittedly, after having read the moment where Daisy and Edmond share their first kiss, this reader had to go back to double check the facts laid out by our protagonist. What I discovered was yes, Daisy and Edmond were indeed cousins. After the initial ick factor had subsided the context of their unique relationship began to set in. Here was this pair of young teenagers who had never met before in their lives, thrown together unexpectedly in the shadows of a once great country, and are now just trying to find some sort of solace. Of course, nothing remains perfect. The story that follows is Daisy’s heart wrenching attempts to find her way back to her cousins, and Edmond, as she is taken by soldiers to live in a separate foster home far away from the farm. How I Live Now is exciting, heartbreaking, and horrifying all in one, and the ending is beautifully simple, yet will leave you with tears of happiness in your eyes. The novel is a great read for anyone looking for that perfect book to get you in the romantic mood just before Valentine’s Day.