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How I Live Now - Book of the Month

by Meg Rosoff

This novel is one of those books that are written for teenagers but are so good, so engaging and moving, that they are a joy for anyone to read.

The narrator is Daisy, an achingly needy fifteen-year-old despite her oh-so-cool, ironic New York voice. Her mother died when she was born and her father is unable to talk about her to Daisy. She is sent to stay with her cousins in England because she is clearly getting in the way of the happy family her father is trying to create with his new wife and baby.

Daisy finds herself in the heart of the country in a large ramshackle house with her bohemian aunt and eccentric cousins who turn out to be exactly the sort of affectionate, accepting family that she longs for. However the idyll doesn't last long. Aunt Penn goes to Oslo on an unspecified peace mission and world war three breaks out.

Daisy's first reactions are typical of a self-absorbed teenager - delight at being left without adult supervision and a very limited understanding of what is happening. When the first bomb goes off in a train station in London, she says, "something like 7,000 or 70,000 people got killed". This narrow perspective on the action makes the ensuing violence even more shocking.

The cousins are split up and a large part of the book is about Daisy's quest to return through the war-ravaged countryside to the house and the rest of the family.

Although she never refers to it directly, we discover through heavy hints that Daisy is anorexic. When the local doctor comes to the house in search of drugs to treat the war casualties, he looks her up and down and asks, "Aren't there enough troubles in the world without this too?". And for once she doesn't know what to say. We see her attitude towards food gradually change as she is forced to forage for nuts and berries on her journey.

This is a short but powerful novel and Meg Rosoff manages, through the voice of a troubled adolescent, to portray equally richly the horror of a country at war (where the war is happening in your country, not 2000 miles away) as well as the ecstasy of first love. Read it - it is far and away the best thing I've read this summer.

Read our interview with Meg Rosoff.

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