Monday, December 1, 2008

How I Live Now - Genre 6 Fantasy, Fiction, & YA

Rosoff, Meg. 2004. How I live now. New York: Wendy Lamb Books. ISBN 0385746776
Plot Summary
This story, told by the character of Daisy, tells about how life changes during and after war. An unhappy teenage girl named Daisy finds a home in England with the family of her deceased mother. Not long after her arrival, Daisy's aunt leaves on a business trip of sorts and while she is gone, a war breaks out seperating the children from Aunt Penn forever. The children survive fine on their own for awhile but as the war progresses, they are eventually seperated with the girls going to live in the home of an Army Major and the boys being moved to a farm turned make-shift Army post.

From the seperation, the focus of the book is solely on Daisy and her cousin Piper and how the two manage to survive a war and their escape back home. After a long, hard journey on foot back to their home, the girls lay low waiting for the boys or at least some news of the boys to arrive home as well. Unfortunately, the first news to arrive is that Daisy is being deported back to New York. Daisy stays in New York for the six years it takes for the war to subside enough for the borders to re-open then returns to a war-torn but slowly reviving England - the only place that ever felt like home. Though her return is not entirely easy or natural, Daisy knows she's home and will probably never leave again.
Critical Analysis
This story, set in a modern day war affecting England and the U.S., can really make the reader think about what a modern war might be like - how hard it would be on society and how things we take for granted could be gone rather quickly. Another compelling theme of the story is Daisy's issues with a hated stepmother and eating which would be more familiar subjects for most readers. While other themes exist as well, the main theme of the story is that of growing up and finding a place to belong - another issue relevant to young readers. The love story within the plot is controverial, somewhat unrealistic, and not the most interesting of the plot lines. While it has some merit, the more compelling part of the story is how Daisy develops a view of the world outside of herself as she survives a war and protects her younger cousin in the process.

While the characters, plots, and themes were mostly realistic and relatable, the style of writing left something to be desired. The style of writing probably correctly reflects the writing of the 15 year old girl who tells the story but it still proves to be a little discouraging. The reader is left with many unanswered questions and the need for clarifications. And while punctuation is not necessarily needed when thinking or speaking, its absence from written forms of communication makes a story hard to follow.
Professional Review Excerpt
from Publishers Weekly 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.
~ An obvious subject of discussion inspired by this novel would be that of a 21st Century war - could it really happen the way this book describes it, would the results really be as the book describes it, would the results be the same in the U.S. as they were in England, etc.
~ Another great skill to be taught through this novel is that of inferencing. Since there are many details left out and gaps in the story, the reader must fill in the blanks.
~ This story could also be used to teach the skill of writing dialogue.

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