Study Guide

How I Live Now

By Meg Rosoff

How I Live Now Introduction

Have you heard about the YA book where the main character is banging her cousin? Whether your answer is yes or no, get ready to get acquainted with Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now, in which yes, the main character is banging her cousin.

Whether this scandal piques your interest or makes you want to wash your eyeballs in hopes of unseeing that first paragraph we wrote, consider this: Since its publication in 2004, this book has lassoed all kinds of critical acclaim and accolades. We're talking the Bradford Boase Award for outstanding novel for children or young adults by a first-time novelist, the Michael L. Printz Award for the best book of the year written for teens, and the once-in-a-lifetime Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.

How I Live Now also managed to make the short list for the LA Times Book Prize, the Whitbread Children's Book Award, and the Orange First Novel Prize. It's basically the Meryl Streep of YA books—so while cousins do get down and dirty with each other, rest assured that this isn't smut, but smut with a purpose. And here's the thing: The much-talked-about incest of How I Live Now is really tangential to the story of family and survival in a futuristic world war.

In other words, whether you're trying to read every major award-winner ever written, secretly harbor a crush on your cousin, or geek out about war and/or the future, then there's something in How I Live Now for you. Plus, it's been made into a movie—and you have to read the book before you see it. It's just the right way to do things.

What is How I Live Now About and Why Should I Care?

Have you ever daydreamed about what it might be like if your parents were stuck somewhere for an extended period of time and you got to live on your own with your besties and just do whatever you wanted all day? Or what it might be like to get the heck out of dodge and flee to an exotic and beautiful location where you fall in love with a mysterious guy who's so totally into you, too?

Well, How I Live Now explores exactly this parent-free, best-friend-filled scenario. Our main girl, Daisy, gets sent away to England by her evil stepmother, and her new guardian aunt gets stuck in Norway on business, so it's all sunshine and frolicking and playtime and romance for Daisy and her English cousins… until World War III literally enters their backyard. Suddenly that whole no-grown-ups-around thing seems a little more harrowing, doesn’t it?

Like most of us growing up in modern-day America, Daisy sees war as a faraway problem that happens in faraway places, where people she doesn't really know fight about vague issues she doesn't totally understand. It's not until the war threatens her own well-being and separates her from those she cares about most that she truly understands all the ways in which it destroys lives.

As much as How I Live Now gives us a taste of the carefree fun of free-range teens, it also offers a glimpse into what it might be like for those not lucky enough to grow up in safe places far away from war and conflict. But rather than being a total downer, it presents an important message of hope and shows us how we might not even realize our own strength until it's really needed.

How I Live Now Resources

Websites

Meg Rosoff's Website
Featuring an infrared animal chase. Need we say more?

One Very Pink Blog
Beauty tips involving superglue, advice on how to write (and how to be weird), photos of bearded men on a catwalk, and Rosoff's political views. A little something for everyone.

Tweet @MegRosoff
More edgy books for you to read, as well as reviews from other readers.

Movie or TV Productions

How I Live Now
Starring Saoirse Ronan and a bunch of redheaded kids that look English, this British adaptation of Rosoff's book was released in 2013 to mostly positive reviews.

Speaking Of Positive Reviews…
Roger Ebert (okay, technically it's someone writing for his website, since he's dead) gives the movie two thumbs up.

Articles and Interviews

She Didn't Mean To Shock You
In this interview, Rosoff talks about Daisy's voice, getting into YA by accident, and how it didn't occur to her that people would be disturbed by Daisy and Edmond being cousins. Say what?

Measuring Up
Rosoff compares How I Live Now to her just-as-edgy second novel, Just in Case.

Putting It All On The Table
An interview in which Rosoff discusses the unnamed Enemy, narcissistic teenagers, and how Daisy is inspired by her own life—among many other things.

Video

You Can Do It
Rosoff gives advice to aspiring writers. Hint: she's "no good at telling stories."

Oxford Lit Fest Interview
Rosoff discusses how she's just come out of adolescence in her mind and how her books about adolescents aren't necessarily targeted at an adolescent audience.

Penguin Books Interview
Ever wondered what authors think of the movie versions of their books? Here Rosoff compares her book with the movie version.

Where Do Movies Come From?
Check out this little featurette on making the film version of How I Live Now.

Saoirse Ronan Interview
The movie's leading lady talks about the book, the movie, and playing Daisy.

Spoiler Alert
Sneak peak at the last scene of the movie—and it's a little different from the book.

Movie Trailer
Check it out—some key details of the plot have been changed, making the story look vastly more dramatic.

One Person's Opinion
A blogger shares her thoughts on the novel… and she's not a big fan of the voice or the incest.

Audio

Author Reading
Rosoff discusses how she came to write the book and reads aloud the scene when Daisy first arrives in England.

Isabella Bird?
In this podcast, Rosoff explains how Isabella Bird (nineteenth-century English explorer, writer, photographer and naturalist, in case you're not aware) inspired her writing.

Images

Rosoff Herself
Is she what you pictured?

U.S. Book Cover
Simple, but with an air of the magical and wild.

U.K. Book Cover
Totally different from the U.S. version, with way more skin showing.

Alternate (Read: Creepier) U.S. Cover
With a totally different vibe from the more popular cover, this one reminds us a bit of a horror movie.

Movie-Based Cover
How do you feel about re-made covers to include shots from the movie?

Daisy and Piper
Check out this movie still of Daisy and little Piper on the run.

The Cousins
A movie still featuring the whole band of magical misfits.

Kissing Cousins
Movie Daisy and Movie Edmond having a moment.

War Scene
In case you had any doubt that the movie is more dramatic than the book.

Sweet Spot
We think this painting is a great depiction of the book's setting.