"Things Happen and once they start happening you pretty much just to hold on for dear life and see where they drop you when they stop."
I've been trying to gather my thoughts on How I Live Now for a couple of days, and I'm still as conflicted as I was when putting the book down. On one level it's a very realistic book touching on the subject of a third World War, but only from a fifteen year old girl's perspective, namely our MC Daisy. And on another level it is also dragged out and somewhat predictable. Right from the start it's clear Daisy isn't going to be a new Katniss and lead a revolution. No, Daisy is your normal school girl who feels abandoned by her father after him remarrying, which leaves her with an eating disorder and a questionable attitude. What How I Live Now is, is the realistic story of a war (and some incest, but I'll get to that later).
Okay, no, I'll go to that incest thing right away since the story pretty much begins with that. Here's the thing: Daisy is shipped of to England by her father to live with her cousins. The cousins' mother leaves for Norway almost immediately when Daisy enters their lives, and so the young people are left to keep things up on their own before the war actually breaks out. One of the cousins is Edmond. Rather quickly the form a bond, and hello incest. My problem isn't the incest - Forbidden is still one of my favorite books which deals with incest as well - but how little foundation the relationship has. There's basically just an electric buzz between the two and they act on it. While it's obvious Diasy has issues and longs for someone to care for her, it doesn't explain why Edmond would be so eager to jump into something this taboo. If this quote is enough to convince you then you probably won't have any problem accepting the relationship in this book:
"The real truth is that the war didn't have much to do with it except that it provided a perfect limbo in which two people who were too young and too related could start kissing without anything or anyone making us stop.”
That complaint done, let's continue with the story. After a short while the war breaks out and Daisy, Edmond and the other cousins, Isaac, Osbert, and Piper, are forced to separate. Daisy is allowed to go with Piper, the youngest cousin, to a new place to live. From this point on the story is a survival story. It's about Daisy fighting to survive and keep up with things happening around her. And, also, to bring the family back together at all costs. The second half of the book is much better than the first, because Daisy doesn't come off as terrible then with her attitude. In fact, this part saved the whole book with the struggles Daisy and Piper face.
The writing did not sit well with me. No doubt this story is well written, but it's written in a stream of consciousness narrative from first person POV, Daisy's view. It's written in a way that Daisy has written her story down and isn't aware of how to write dialogue. This choice of narrative bothered me for two reasons. First, because I found Daisy's voice too self-absorbed to be interesting. And second, because it left out much of the other characters personalities (for example Edmond's reasons for begin a relationship with Daisy). This was a personal issue, but I can see why others might find this alluring. On a not completely unrelated topic I also think it was a mistake of me to pick this up after recently reading Tomorrow, When the War Began which also is a survival story including teens. This is also narrated by a girl writing down the events of the current war. Now I'd recommendTomorrow, When the War Began before How I Live Now but had I read them in reverse order I might've said different. How I Live Now will appeal to many reader's, but I'm conflicted about it. No doubt it's a well written and provoking book, but, as I've stated, I had some issues with it.
As a side note, How I Live Now is now a movie. For those who haven't seen it and are interested you can watch the trailer here. I've heard it's supposed to be better than the book.