How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
How I chose this: It actually had nothing to with that shiny 2005 Michael L. Printz Award sticker on the cover. The narrator, Kim Mai Guest, made me do it! Guest, who is apparently 43 (so says her Wiki bio), has one of those eternal voices, always pitch-perfectly tuned for teenaged characters.
How I think now: What started really, really well, devolved to smack-in-the-forehead, ‘are you kidding me?’ The no-turning-back point came here: ” … partly the idea of wanting to be thin in a world full of people dying from lack of food struck even me as stupid. Well, what do you know? Every war has its silver lining ….” No, really.
How I summarize (in one annoyed sentence – possible spoiler alert): Motherless teenaged New Yorker goes rural, takes up with her younger British cousin, recovers from anorexia only by living through World War III with a 9-year-old (girl) cousin in tow, and after more suffering, sort of lives happily ever after.
How I might expound further: At 15, Daisy is not quite dignified enough to inhabit her given name, Elizabeth. When she’s sent to live with her aunt and four cousins in a remote English village, she’s not too upset to be an ocean away from her distant father, her “Evil Stepmother,” and their “devil’s spawn” about to be birthed back in Manhattan. She’s instantly smitten with her 14-year-old cousin Edmond for whom age has few limits: he smokes, he drives … and he recognizes Daisy as a soulmate for life.
Daisy’s Aunt Penn is her only connection to “a mother I barely ever got a chance to meet,” but before they can spend even a few days together, Aunt Penn is off to Oslo to give a lecture. Being home alone with her cousins, ages 9 to 18, is initially “happy” … until World War III breaks out. The children are eventually separated, and for the first time in her life, Daisy is forced out of her self-absorption and must figure out how she and her 9-year-old cousin will survive to reunite with whomever might be left of their shrinking family.
How I’m in the minority (in so many ways): Besides the coveted Printz, American-turned-Brit Meg Rosoff’s debut novel also won the 2004 Guardian Children’s Fiction prize, and was shortlisted for the Whitbread (now Costa Book Awards) and Orange (now Women’s Prize for Fiction) prizes, and more.
How I Live Now … continued: For said groupies out there, here’s the IMDB file about the coming film adaptation. While you’re waiting, you might check out this five-part 2007 radio adaptation from the BBC: click here for Episode 1. My own journey ends here with the book, but yours might be just beginning … all in the eyes (and ears) of the beholder.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult