Friday, November 30, 2007

Fiction, Fantasy, and YA: How I Live Now

Rosoff, Meg. 2004. HOW I LIVE NOW. NY: Wendy Lamb Books/Random House Children’s Books. ISBN: 9780375890543.

*Winner of 2005 Michael L. Printz Award*

Sent to live with her Aunt Penn and her four cousins, whom she never met, in England, fifteen-year-old New York street smart Daisy finds love and an ideal and picturesque life before it is interrupted by a war. With love for her cousins, she determinedly survives the turmoil and horror that comes with the war and finds her way back home.

Meg Rosoff’s How I live Now is a remarkable book about Daisy being sent to England because her unconnected father and “diabolical” stepmother cannot handle her hatred mood and Anorexia and who finds love in her cousin Edmond before she and her cousins are separated by the war.

Daisy is an extremely well developed character. She arrives in England as a disgruntled teen who is use to the technology of the world; however, as time continues she grows to be becoming a loving person who finds the country live highly agreeable. The first time that the readers truly get a glimpse of her vulnerable and soft side is when she wanted to ask Aunt Penn questions about the mother she never knew, especially the question that
“you can’t ask like Did she have like yours and When you pushed my hair back was that what I feels like to have your mother do it and Did her hands look serious and quest like yours and Did she ever have a chance to look at me with a complicated expression like the one on your face, and by the way, Was she scared to die” (Rosoff, p. 20).

As the story continues Daisy slowly yet surely transitions to new a new self. She becomes a mature young woman in order to survive and save her cousin Piper as the world around her begins to suffer by unknown enemies. Even in the end she, as an example of how a war can physiologically affective, over comes her Anorexia because of becoming half-starved to death as she and Piper journeyed back home with barely enough food. She initially purposely starved herself because of hatred and the power that it gave her, but during the war “the idea of wanting to be thin in a world full of people dying from lack of food stuck even [her] as stupid” (Rosoff, p. 159).

Her cousins are also developed wonderfully. Each one of them have their own characteristics. Piper, the youngest, is loving and quite mature for her age. She also has the ability to understand dogs. Edmond and Isaac are fourteen-year-old twins. Isaac hardly speaks yet he understands many things, especially the behavior of animals. Edmond is the bolder twin who talks more and connects with Daisy instantly. Finally there is the oldest Osbert. As a sixteen year old he is busy and becomes wrapped in the war and ultimately joins the remaining army as the house is sequestered. All the twins share an ability to be telepathy. This is especially the case for the twins Edmond and Isaac. Daisy notices instantly that Edmond can answer questions that she nonverbally asks herself, and Isaac is able to understand the animals through this ability. Like Daisy’s father and stepmother, Aunt Penn is hardly in the book and is not described in detail.

The plot well developed and provides an interesting story of how an immature teenage grows to maturity during the ravages of a war. There is true reason of why a war has started and who the enemy. There are many speculations; however, no one is certain. The method to how the enemy has invaded England was done by drawing the British Army away fro the island and taking over the resources which blocked the army from returning; practically taking over the country inside out.

Life improves for Daisy in the English countryside. She has a sense of love and security on the farm, even when war breaks out with terrorist attacks in London while her Aunt Penn is out of the country in Oslo. She and her cousin Edmond are passionately in love with each other and life on the farm is picturesque and unaffected. However, that all comes to an end when, after quite sometime, the cousins are split into two and separated when soldiers sequester their farmhouse. The remainder of the book takes the reader throughout the English countryside as both Daisy and Piper live and work before making their bleak and starved trek to find Edmond and Isaac and home.

As mentioned above, the story is set in the English countryside sometime in the near future. The reader is taken from family farmhouse to the local town where the children purchase food that is slowly becoming scarce. When they are split up and sent to live elsewhere, the readers finally are able to see how other parts of the countryside are gray and are frazzled and scared about the occupation of the enemy.

Because of the current matters in today’s world, the story quite realistic, despite the fact that is set slightly in the distant future, and realistically describes how it is like to be living during a time of war seeing the destruction that is causes first hand. This is especially illustrated when Daisy and Piper witness the bloody shooting of Joe, young man who worked with Daisy as many gathered food, and Major McEvoy, whom they lived with, and viewing the decaying bodies of seventeen massacred men, women and children on a farm as the two girls searched for cousins Edmond and Isaac. The readers are also opened to the emotions that comes with discovering love ones who are causalities of the devastation, such to the girls finding the body of Dr. Jameson, who they had met earlier that year, and their beloved pet goat Ding who was ridden with hunger and disease. The readers also that other destruction of war can be psychological, as it is seen at the end of book when the reader learns how Edmond became physically and mentally scared after witnessing the massacre (Rosoff, p. 191). Even Isaac opens up and speaks more frequently.

The major theme of How I Live Now is love. Love is the key factor in survival. It is because of her love for Piper and Edmond that Daisy has the strength and determination to make it back home. She uses her smarts to learn from soldiers how to stay alive in the wilderness and which direction they should go in order for Piper and herself to make it home. When Daisy is taken a back to the United States by her father, it is her love for Edmond, who’s fate she still did not know, that she lived six years in New York City while the war raged on and finally ended. Because she knew that her home was truly in England on the farm with her loving cousins, she returns to be with Edmond who is still alive. Other underlining themes that can be seen in the story is the affects of war; however, even though the war a predominate fixture in the plot it is not the main theme.

The story is narrated by Daisy herself, which allows the readers a wonderful insight into the thoughts and feelings of the main character as she lives in England. The language matches perfectly to a teenager her age and who had lived in a highly populated American city. There is more narration than there is dialogue. However, the style of the dialogue is uniquely done. To create the sense of Daisy telling the story Rosoff did not use tradition quotation marks to represent dialogue. Instead they were simply added into Daisy’s narration and only signified by the capitalization of the first letter of the first word. The narration is also an extension to Daisy transformation to a mature young adult. In the epilogue-esque ending, when she is around the age of twenty-one, her language is no longer riddled with words like “crap” and “pissed,” and she speaks with greater detail than before and with more emotions. Also, while talking once again with her cousins, Rosoff uses the true quotation-style dialogue. The use of the unique language and narration style allows Daisy to more real and vivid to the readers who will be able to connect to her better.

Rosoff’s How I Live Now is a truly intriguing and at times raw story of how a teenager transforms to a young woman during 21st century wartime, which truly deserves the Michael L. Printz Award.

In this 2005 Printz Award winner, fifteen-year-old Daisy speaks directly to the listener. Her city-smart voice both tells her story and provides an ironic commentary on the cataclysmic events that forever alter her life the summer she goes to England to visit her cousins: sixteen-year-old Osbert, fourteen-year-old Edmond and his twin brother Isaac, and nine-year-old Piper. Guest's voice is perfect for the Daisy we meet at the beginning, before the world slides inexorably into dystopia: a mixture of flippant nonchalance, barely concealed anger, carefully controlled pain, and gargantuan self-absorption. The voices of the secondary characters are all relayed through Daisy's consciousness, and Guest is careful to individualize them without allowing us to lose the sense that we are still hearing Daisy speak. As the horrors of war gradually alter the landscape, Guest's matter-of-fact delivery makes this tale both bearable and all too real. Copyright 2005 of The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved. (July 1, 2005)

This riveting first novel paints a frighteningly realistic picture of a world war breaking out in the 21st century. Told from the point of view of 15-year-old Manhattan native Daisy, the novel follows her arrival and her stay with cousins on a remote farm in England. Soon after Daisy settles into their farmhouse, her Aunt Penn becomes stranded in Oslo and terrorists invade and occupy England. Daisy's candid, intelligent narrative draws readers into her very private world, which appears almost utopian at first with no adult supervision (especially by contrast with her home life with her widowed father and his new wife). The heroine finds herself falling in love with cousin Edmond, and the author credibly creates a world in which social taboos are temporarily erased. When soldiers usurp the farm, they send the girls off separately from the boys, and Daisy becomes determined to keep herself and her youngest cousin, Piper, alive. Like the ripple effects of paranoia and panic in society, the changes within Daisy do not occur all at once, but they have dramatic effects. In the span of a few months, she goes from a self-centered, disgruntled teen to a courageous survivor motivated by love and compassion. How she comes to understand the effects the war has had on others provides the greatest evidence of her growth, as well as her motivation to get through to those who seem lost to war's consequences. Teens may feel that they have experienced a war themselves as they vicariously witness Daisy's worst nightmares. Like the heroine, readers will emerge from the rubble much shaken, a little wiser and with perhaps a greater sense of humanity. Ages 12-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. (July 5, 2004)

*Discuss with the group Daisy’s transformation from a disgruntle teen to a mature character.
*Have the group discuss how they would have reacted if they went through the same thing that Daisy and her cousins went through.

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