i can’t seem to enjoy how i live now….

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff; published by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, 2004; 194 pages.

Elizabeth, who prefers the nickname Daisy, is starving.  Food, love, attention—she is starving for it all.  She feels guilty for murdering her mother, who actually died in childbirth.  She resents her father and loathes her stepmother.  She tries to control her feelings and environment by controlling food; she is obviously anorexic.  So Daisy gladly moves from New York City to England to live with her Aunt Penn and cousins Osbert, Isaac, Edmond and Piper.  The unthinkable happens: War is being waged around the family’s farm, uprooting the family unit.  Lack of adult supervision, Edmond, and war change her life.  Edmond, in particular, affects Daisy, as the two disregard the incestual taboo and become intimate.  In spite of and because of Edmond and the war, her starvation is replaced with a new purpose for her life.  At the end of the book, Daisy explains that this is how she lives now.

Rosoff’s style for the first 163 pages of the book is rambling, stream of consciousness, with little or no punctuation, that is often hard to follow and is more often annoying.  It is in the final 30 or so pages of the book that we readers are allowed a glimpse at the reason the book is written in such a way: It is Daisy’s hastily written memoir.  

Twenty years of writing and editing newsletters, and an undergrad degree in English, prevented me from enjoying this book.  Even when I understood the author’s reason for the unorthodox style, its uneven pacing, run-on sentences, and lack of coherent punctuation, were mechanical stumbling blocks—hurdles high enough to keep me from enjoying the story.  As I read it, I was distracted by the thought that I could use this book as a proofreading exercise for high school students! 

Teens probably will enjoy the book in spite of the unusual storytelling because it addresses extreme instances of teen issues (like eating disorders and decisions about sex) in a world without much adult supervision.  In this post-9/11 era, and in light of the ongoing war in Iraq, the fear of war in our own backyard may also increase interest in this book.   I believe the unique style and the themes explain why this book won the Michael L. Printz Award in 2005. 

3P     3Q     Grades 10-12

how_i_live_nowCover Art:  The red font on a black field makes the title stand out; the graphic design of the country house does not convey the story nor would it appeal to teens. 

From Reading List: Michael L. Printz Award, 2005 Winner

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