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Literature: How I Live Now

So there we are carrying on our happy little life of underage sex, child labour and espionage when someone came to visit us, which, after weeks of Just Us Five kind of took us by surprise, to put it mildly.

How I Live Now is a 2004 YA novel by Meg Rosoff.

After relations with her father and stepmother break down, Daisy, a cynical, unloved 15-year-old suffering from anorexia, is sent from New York to the English countryside, to stay with her cousins. Living in a beautiful, ramshackle house and blissfully free of teacherly or parental restraints, Osbert, Edmond, Isaac and Piper are a wild but gentle crowd, at least one of whom, Edmond, seems to have actual magical powers. Wary at first, Daisy is soon entranced by their small private utopia. But meanwhile the world slides towards war. The kids blithely ignore it at first, but horror and violence are drawing ever closer.

The novel incorporates tropes from fairy stories and classic children's literature (the death of Daisy's mother in childbirth, the carefree gang of unsupervised children romping about in a glorious English summer) into its ultimately more daring and provocative narrative.

It was adapted for Radio in 2007, and for film in 2013.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Aloof Big Brother: Osbert remains relatively detached from and mildly unsympathetic to the others' feelings and goings-on.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Daisy.
  • Death by Childbirth: Daisy's mother.
  • Emo Teen: Daisy starts out this way, though at least she's always self-aware and funny about it.
  • Five-Man Band: Daisy and her cousins. At first.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Piper, Isaac.
  • From Bad to Worse: A number of times, and we're talking about a pretty damaged 15-year-old protagonist to begin with.
  • Heroic BSOD: Pretty much everyone, to varying extents. Especially Edmond.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Almost everyone, really, notably Piper and Edmond. Isaac too, though in slightly chillier form.
  • Kissing Cousins: The romance between teenage cousins Daisy and Edmond is the unapologetic core of the book.
  • Mama Bear: Initially self-absorbed, Daisy unexpectedly discovers a strong protective streak in herself, especially with regard to 9-year-old Piper:
    "And the thought made me fierce and strong like a mother wildebeest and suddenly I knew where people got the strength to pick up cars with babies lying under them which I always thought was made up."
  • Parental Abandonment: At least Aunt Penn's neglect of her seemingly fatherless children is well-intentioned/accidental. Daisy's father - not so excusable.
  • Promotion to Parent: Initially it's actually poor little Piper who takes on most of the practical responsibility for keeping everyone alive. Later, as things get too much for any nine-year-old to handle, Daisy steps up.
  • The Quiet One: Isaac. Edmond gets more said without words, too.
  • The Determinator: Something else Daisy discovers about herself.
  • Telepathy: Edmond. Because why not?
  • Title Drop: The closing lines of the book.
    After all this time, I know exactly where I belong. Here. With Edmond. And that's how I live now.
  • Twin Telepathy: Isaac seems to be mildly telepathic where Edmond is concerned, though Edmond's never-named ability is clearly much stronger.
    • It's implied that Isaac's telepathy only works on his twin and on animals, which explains how he was so good handling them. Edmond's power just seemed to be straight-up telepathy.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Since the book is told entirely through Daisy's first person narration, it's clear in some parts that she's putting her own bias on the events she's describing.
    • Daisy really has no evidence against "Davina the Diabolical"; for all we know she's just any regular old stepmother that's unliked by her new daughter.
    • Daisy doesn't seem to recognize the extent of her eating disorder, and how recognizable it is to others— though it's pointed out by other characters many times, she never actually admits that anything's wrong (a common characteristic of people with body dysmorphia).
  • World War Three: A very small, close-up view of it. Daisy's never very clear exactly what's going on or why.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Davina. As Daisy puts it, "If she was making even the slightest attempt to address centuries of bad press for stepmothers, she scored a Big Fat Zero."

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